In order to even begin to understand the blasted world of Necromunda you must first understand the hive cities

. These man-made mountains of plasteel, ceramite and rockrete have accreted over centuries to protect their inhabitants from a ho stile environment, so very much like the termite mounds they resemble. The Necromundan hive cities have populations in the billions and are intensely industrialised, each one commanding the manufacturing potential of an entire planet or colony system compacted into a few hundred square kilometres. The internal stratification of the hive cities is also illuminating to observe. The entire hive structure replicates the social status of its inhabitants in a vertical pla ne. At the top are the nobility, below them are the workers, and below the workers are the dregs of society, the outcasts. Hive Primus, seat of the planetary governor Lord Helmawr of Necromunda, illustrates this in the starkest terms. The nobles - Hous es Helmawr, Cattalus, ??, Ulanti, Greim, Ran Lo and Ko'lron - live in the 'Spire', and seldom set foot below the 'Wall' that exists between themselves and the great forges and hab zones of the hive city proper. Below the hive city is the 'Underhive', foundation layers of habitation domes, industrial zones and tunnels which have been abandoned in prior generations, onl y to be re-occupied by those with nowhere else to go. But... humans are not insects. They do not hive together well. Necessity may for ce it, but the hive cities of Necromunda remain internally divided to the point of brutalisation and outright violence being an everyday fact of life. The Underhiv e, meanwhile, is a thoroughly lawless place, beset by gangs and renegades, where only the strongest or the most cunning survive. The Goliaths, who believe firmly that might is right; the matriarchal, man-hating Escher; the industrial Orlocks; the technologically-minded Van Saar; the Delaque whose very existence depends on their espionage network; the fiery zealots of the Cawdor. All striving for the advantage that will elevate them, no matter how briefly, above the other houses and gangs of the Underhive. Most fascinating of all is when individuals attempt to cross the monumental phys ical and social divides of the hive to start new lives. Given social conditions, asce nsion through the hive is nigh on impossible, but descent is an altogether easier, alb eit altogether less appealing, possibility. excerpted from Xonariarius the Younger's Nobilite Pax Imperator - the Triumph of Aristocracy over Democracy. PROLOGUE SOREN WAS A dead man, each step a countdown to his own execution, but that didn' t stop him from running faster. He no longer cared that his calves were numb or that his ribs ached hard and stabbe d him in the gut with every stride. In the mad, wild panic to escape his pursuers, Soren had taken too many side cor ridors, too many unfamiliar passages. Left, right, left again before he lost his bearings. He was lost, runn ing blind past endless walls of rivetpunched plates the colour of dull metal. Soren stumbled down flights of grated stairs, t heir ceilings pressed down by

the crushing weight often miles worth of aging city. Finally, fatigue robbed Soren of his footing; he slipped on a greasy patch of po oling machine oil that leaked from the braided intestines of ceiling pipes and tubes. His ears roared from the surge of pounding blood and the piston-hiss of the servos in his augmented arm. The sounds of gunfire that had hounded him thro ugh the warrens of the Underhive had stopped. It was silent, his heart beating as if from behind his eardrums. Soren wiped the black oil from his face and stood with a steadying hand against the wall. His legs quivered with fatigue and his artificial eyes strained to detect thermal variant s in his surroundings, but to no avail. He was near a smelting plant and the heat from all that molten metal bled throug h the walls' multiple skins. The casing protecting his implants grew warmer against the connective tissues of his flesh, and while not painful, it would be uncomfortable soon. The air felt thick with humidity; the walls perspir ed. It was several degrees hotter than the human body. That rendered his pursuers invisible to thermal optics, and Soren's normal sight couldn't see much better in the corridor. Soren hadn't escaped. He felt it and it found voice in his panicked whimpers. Fa te wouldn't let go that easily, if at all. Fate was patient; fate was hungry; and fate seemed blessed with an endless suppl y of ammunition. Shots rang out in the corridor; a round punched a dent in the wall above Soren's head. He turned a nd ran, catching a fleeting glimpse of someone in the dark, a thermal ghost washed out by the surrounding heat. Soren continued running, until the last shot rang out; until he staggered to a d runken, sloppy halt; until he looked down at the wet, crimson flower blossoming on his shirt, the flesh petals of a b lackened, scorched hole in his chest that sizzled; until he quietly wondered if his heart had burst or if getting sho t normally hurt this much... CHAPTER: ONE A good falsehood is more comforting than the truth. - Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. THE EAR-POPPING crack of gunshots and the hiss of lasfire was almost deafening; it echoed off the walls, amplified to storm's pitch by the thick, pockmarked plascrete. Uriah Storm ignored the racket . He focused on his target, both hands wrapped around the bolt pistol's grip, and angled down to the floor. His b lue eyes drifted, as though lost to some silent conundrum. Suddenly, with an experienced snap, he brought the pistol up - one hand to aim, the other to steady - and squeezed off four shots, his finger barely tapping the hair trigger. The untamed weapon k icked in his hand with each shot; four of four rounds found their target. A fleeting smile escaped his lips and Uriah c huckled. He felt like a child with a new toy. The firing range was crowded today, a line of twenty men and women unleashing a blistering array of punishment. Uriah didn't look at them. Instead, he watched the steel-alloy targets scattered at various intervals along the range, hidden behind collapsed walls and blasted archways. That the targets all bore so me semblance to the thick-necked, low-browed members of House Orlock was mere coincidence, or so the Delaque agents claimed with a smile. Still, too many of their shots were errant. Too many House members

believed that filling the air with a steady hail of death was equal to being a crack shot. Uriah clucked and smiled at his own sudden mischievous inspiration. He pivoted a nd fired another four shots into the other targets along the range, hitting the ones others had missed. A few peo ple stopped firing and craned their heads to look in his direction. Most of the shooters scowled at him, though a co uple returned his easy grin. Those of poor humour, Uriah decided, were likely to be equally poor shots. Pleased with himself, Uriah ejected the pistol's clip and cleared the round in t he chamber. He mouthed a quick 'thank you' to the Machine Spirit empowering the weapon. It was only when he turned the gun over to the weapons master standing next to him that he noticed the man had been talking. 'She is loud, isn't she?' Uriah said, removing the earplugs. 'You were saying?' 'What were you mumbling?' weapons master Coryin replied. 'Nothing/ Uriah said with a grin before waving dis-missively 'A mantra, I suppos e, actually. Hail to me, or something to that effect.' Coryin grunted. "Your shots are drifting/ he said. 'Kept hitting other targets/ 'Yes, surprising that/ Uriah said, admiring the engraved handle, 'but she has sp irit. I like the gun. She's untamed/ Too much for the likes of you, I suspect/ Coryin said. 'And too loud for your li ne of work/ 'Perhaps/ Uriah replied, taking a moment to unfurl the braid in his hair before tying it up into a simple ponytail. He noticed the bald Delaque man studying his crop of brown hair - a ra rity among the Delaque, but necessary to someone in his position. There are times when the only proper respo nse is a loud one/ Uriah said. 'I want her/ 'Get the requisition forms signed and she's yours. Oh, and Uriah, no forgeries t his time. I'm double-checking every signature with Percal. Understood?' 'Coryin/ Uriah said, slapping the other man's shoulder, 'I'd never use the same trick twice on you/ Coryin scowled as Uriah walked away with a laugh. THE CORRIDORS WERE dark, the lights dimmed by half. The Delaque preferred their illumination on the darker side of grey; less harsh on their normally sensitive eyes. And they whispered while they spoke - even in passing conversation. The Delaque stronghold of Shadow-strohm was typical of the House's other assets throughout Hive Primus, all plascrete walls and endurasteel floors, their sky low, dark and line d with pipes. The walls bled history in dulled stains, the collected moisture of centuries and the occasional spatter of blood from days when the Houses waged their wars more openly. It did not share the opulence of the main House co mpound several miles above their heads, but Shadowstrohm was among the more active listening posts. It was closer to ?? streets, and thus nearer to the action and bustle. It was also considered part of the trenches, the first li ne of defence against the other Houses. To Uriah it was home in an unfriendly household. Several Delaque gangs made thei r residence in Shadowstrohm, at the insistence of the House's masters. It was a ploy against outsiders, making H ouse Delaque seem larger and more organized than any of the other Houses, but behind the walls, Uriah belonged to one of several factions, and surviving meant knowing how to navigate the other groups.

mentally counting between each knoc k. two chairs and a black pict screen to adorn the otherwise austere space. in his line of work. legs and neck. How the bald man managed to procure such a piece of arche otech was a mystery. He was proof ffiat surviving the game had its costs. annoying the serious-minded Information Cullers with his smile and mystifying th e Seductresses as to the motivation behind his grin. Well actually. He walked through the hallways. but served the needs of the bald man sitting behind the desk . and he did so wim a smile. Uriah knocked five times in erratic fashion. The only personable touch to the otherwise basic room was a thick regicide board with bronze and silver tiles set upon a small stand in the corner. 'Comfortable?' Percal asked. Apparen tly they weren't to be disturbed. Uriah entered carefully. with some comfort to spare. He never asked about it or volunteered his suspicions mat somethi ng was there. it didn't show . if the game's mortality rate ever bothered Uriah. putting the data-slate down. Uriah was good at his game. On me final tap. thick of chest. costs Uriah never intended to willingly pay. 'Sit/ Percal instructed. It was to his advantage to pretend he knew nothing. but relatively indistinguishable ag ent in House Delaque. that meant he was a veteran of 'the game'. That said. He might have been like any other venerable. but whenever Uriah visited. his eyes that of a carrion eater seeking . with a metal desk. He studied Uriah. and heard the familiar whiz-dick-whir. reading a data-slate in his hands. He sat in one of the unyielding metal chairs. one partially clouded by white. the pieces had been moved around. official-looking hallways that suddenly dead-ended and doors t hat opened to plascrete walls and gunports. Uriah flashed teeth to disarm the unwary and to unhi nge those who knew better. seemingly ignored corridor. only that it was a bad idea walking through before hearing it. Upon the surface flickered low-rez holographic pieces caught in the middle of a match's static ballet. ignoring en graved markers that pointed him in wrong directions. Percal. The room was small. This is how the game between Percal and Uriah always began. What that sound entailed. was not looking bothered. The Delaque believed that a proper defence was a good deception. but a knife scar hooked his lip into a scowl and two slits rested where an Orlock knife had claimed his nose. Uriah never knew. there was also that thin seam in the wall extending from floor to ceiling that Uriah suspected was a hidden door. The trick . Despite the youthful mien that cast his age some years short of thirty. Most men couldn't stare into Percal's beady black eyes. was bald and stout in all his proportio ns. something clicked on the other side. Still. It was surprisingly clean. the man sitting behind the desk. Uriah closed the door behind him. the same game that killed Delaque spies with facile routine. and t hat axiom reflected itself in the very architecture of their bases.Fortunately. It was never the same game on t he table. Why serve one purpose when an action can serve two? Uriah navigated the labyrinthine corridors without a second thought. instantly uncomfortable. arms. That is what brought Uriah to the plain door h idden deep in the shadows of a thin. but Uriah had no qualms maintaining eye contact wifh his superior.

certainly. were likewise of superior quality. 'Soren?' Uriah asked Percal. All of Uriah's previous assignments as Handler demanded distance. Even asking questions surrendered too much information. A grainy. while pinching his chin and mouth was a goatee that matched the colour of his hair. but the old man only did so when it was an unpleasant piece of work. acting half-distracted. He never arrived at th e rendezvous point. On the other. Uriah recognized the shot. His visible implants. T he Delaque preferred their Handlers to act for the strict benefit of the House.the prize morsels of meat on his subordinate. at eye level. 'Who is it?' Percal nodded to the pict screen. showing a man moving down an oil stained and industrial-looking corridor.' 'Same as always. This was not the secret he feared had come to light. despite the fact he couldn't fraternize with members of ot her Houses except in the pursuit of his duties as Handler. 'You know the target. sharing the darker elements of Uriah's hum our. repeating the same four seconds over and over again. 'Work. he was relieved. two eyes and an arm. but a piece of him clamo ured to know. Maybe they captured him/ Uriah said. 'What happened to him?' 'Our little mole has vanished/ Vanished. The picture looped back. black and white picture appeared. but in the process of recruiting S oren into Delaque's service. Instead he smiled with practiced ease and asked. I wanted my guests to experience the same comfort that you offer your visit ors/ Percal offered a thin smile. On the one hand. He was quirky. Uriah had grown to like the man. trying to maintain his professional facade.' Percal said with a purr. To his credit Uriah said nothing. fairly typical to the researchers of House Van Saar. however. and Uriah had too many skeletons in his c loset not to worry that he'd just been caught holding one of them. perspective. This was different. He nodded with a congenial smile before leaving the frame. . any personal stake in the m atter was considered a threat to that interest.' 'Not quite this time. the one th at would rain him. He wore a lab frock. Uriah thought. 'Indeed/ Uriah said. towards the camera. he was concerned.' 'Then to what do I owe the pleasure of your invitation?' Uriah asked. Soren was an asset. He knew Percal was toying with him. he couldn't swallow.' 'He was carrying new Van Saar implants for us to examine. He said nothing. at least in theory.' Uriah was instantly aware that Percal was studying him. even though he prepared himself to hear a batt ery of potentially damning news. Uriah would even hazard calling him a friend. 'I requisitioned the very same chai rs for my quarters/ 'Did you now?' Yes. He was fighting a battering array of emotions that besieged him on all sides. Better Percal volunteer the information. He'd filmed it over two years ago while deep undercov er behind enemy lines.' 'Perhaps the Van Saar discovered his dealings with us. 'I can't abide company either. waiting to gauge his rea ction to something. It scrabbled at his chest and dried his throat.

and he didn't like feeling uncertain.' Uriah said. 'Did you miss anything. If a nyone knows how to find him. Perhaps he couldn't anticipate everything that was thrown his way. He was well dressed. because I'd hate to think I made a mistake using you.' Uriah nodded.' 'Requisition forms. a sly grin on his face. prepared to leave. The man stepped out of the small and surprisingly empty room and glanced at the panel sliding back into place. thanks for the opportunity.' Uriah cursed himself for becoming so obviously disttacted by the news. his scars. He tamed and shot a questioning look at Percal. 'Good. while his features were sharp and angular. You brought him over to our side.' Percal said. The door unlocked. but in his ttade. If he trusts anyone. That ranked among the most cherished of Delaque commandments. THE ARMOURY CHIEF was well acquainted with battle. 'He wounds me with his distrust. 'of course. interrupting the young man. picking up his personal data-slate. You befriended him. 'Bes ides. 'And again. no older than Uriah. and currently. I've been-' Thank me by succeeding. Kaden?' Percal asked. Very well. you do. PERCAL WAITED FOR Uriah to finally leave the room before setting down the data-s late. You might need it. Uriah left the office. 'Captured him? Perhaps/ Percal said.' Percal said slowly. 'Caught every word. growing tired of this constant duelling. Kaden said nothing and merely nodded. Locate Soren and the implants he promised us. and Kaden left Percal alone in his chamber. You mustn't ale rt the Van Saar about the operation.' With that. adopting a cavalier attitude.' said Kaden.. Anything else I need know?' Percal shook his head. 'Doesn't this conflict with Delaque policy: no personal in volvement in the assignment?' 'Soren was your mole. Nevertheless.' Why me?' Uriah asked. a soft curse under his breath. Standing at t he secret door was a young man. I'll find him. He was already beginning t he game at a disadvantage. he waited to h ear the door unlock. They cannot know we have a mole in their midst lest you endanger our other asset s in their camp.. perhaps in his mid-twenties. That's where we n eed your skills. Pick it up from the weapons mast er. 'Have I?' Uriah said.' Kaden said. I've granted your request for the bolt pistol.' 'No. He turned to the wall and waited for the hidden panel to slide aside on well-oiled tumblers. 'Aren't you going to ask me for something? A certain bolt pistol from the firing range? I thought you would take the opportunity to requisition the weapon from me?' Weapons master Coryin told you. With that. He wor e rectangular glare-shades with wire rims. but nothing happened. marble eye and bol ted skin plates a testament to his . it was a cardinal sin to act surprised. 'Forgotten something?' Percal asked. his face and scalp were Delaque smooth. 'though I have my doubts. Uriah stood. it's you. Percal went back to examining his recorder.Use anyone and everyone to further the glory of the house. The door unlocked again. I didn't want to disturb you with such petty details as requisition forms. his black tr ench coat clean and pressed. Uri ah was betraying that oath through his friendship with Soren. I need this done quietly.

'Amateur?' Uriah asked. at which the armoury chief deposited extra ammunit ion clips on the table. taking the supplies. That would have spelt the end of his career as a Handler. He pointed to his . Uriah wondered whether he would one day face some disfiguring treatment. right?' the armoury chief asked. He would become useless to his gang. 'I plan on bleeding like a professional Handler. 'Well. Uriah picked up the sat chel and smiled at the armoury chief. His expressio n changing from civil to concerned.years in the trenches of the Underhive. the equipment satchel still flecked with dried blood from someone else's unfortunate outing. Percal.' The Chief smirked and returned to his paperwork. All my fo rms signed and approved by my Overseer before one drop of blood strikes the ground. but thinking about his own injuries was a sobering. 'but then it's the subt le ones that will cost you/ Something in the statement attracted the armoury chiefs attention. 'Tough assignment?' the armoury chief asked. The armoury chief returned moments later with the standard assignment pack. But then. the Handlers. The thought chilled Uriah. Uriah thrived on the notion of peril and he had a nose for it. skull p ump tubing. Any permanent fixtures upon his body would ruin one of the principle tools of his trade. 'Subtle assignment/ Uriah answered. 'Not me. his leader. where so-called doctors disposed of severed limbs in garbage pails and used them for u nsavoury experiments . it was skirting the edge of that danger that provided the job with its thrills. 'Careful with that one/ the Chief said with a casual whisper. Uriah nodded in satisfaction. yes/ Uriah said. He'd come close to enduring such mutilation at the hands of street surgeons. the armoury chi ef limped into the rear storerooms with their low ceilings and tightly packed shelving units. the horrifying list of disfigurem ents was endless. Soren's disappearance promised more than was stated. After dutifully studying Uriah's requisition list for equipment. Uriah didn't care to know what exactly. eavesdropping equipment a nd other accoutrements for carrying out his role as spy. distrac tion. lock picks. Undercover work was crucial to his livelihood. 'We're all amateurs when it comes to getting shot/ the Chief said. He was worried about Soren.' Uriah said. Uriah checked the tools sheathe d inside the heavy leather fabric. exposed steel plate for bone. but had eventually managed to f ind someone with enough skill to avoid permanent disfigurement. 'Percal's boy. In fact. leaving Uriah to his thoughts. and frankly welcome. acid ampoules and protean metal keys. but Percal is my Overseer.or worse. not boy. uncertain of the Chi efs shifting interest. both the prospect of such pain and the physical cost. as was the ability to alter his appearance. More than just thieving supplie s. the satchel also carried small telescopes. more polite than interested. the satchel a tool belt of sorts for his crafts. pseudo-articulated gears for joints. Uriah relied on his ability to blend into crowds and to move about unnoticed. They were also the cost of working in ba ck-alley chop-shop medicine. Uriah had worked with Percal long enough to know there was always someth ing more to his superior's assignments. and to their leader.

Uriah turned several times. There was a vox grille next to the heavy door. Instead. Finally. I would welcome a chance to step away from it all. he wasn't leaving its side. 'Stop revving your damn engine!' the woman shouted. The buildings and storage cabins were mostly forgotten in the Underhive. The district was strictly low-ceiling and crammed with warehouses and containers. Too many died in their attempts to loot. retirement is never expected or pleasant. that sounds glorious. Nobody will ever kn ow how good you are and they'll certainly never remember you once you're gone.marble eye with the clawed finger on his rusting metal hand. Jester/ 'Yes I can meet your price/ he said with a sigh. the tone more casual now. Uriah disembarked from the cycle and turned around slowly. only lot numbers belonging to the seemingl y endless grid of corrugated and rusted storage units. He left the engine running. Voice/ 'Not in the mood for games. He stopped in front of a storage container emblazoned with colourful profanities. their c ontents abandoned by their former owners. 'But in our business. 'State your business!' a woman's voice demanded through the scratchy vox feed. but remained on his bike. 'What can I do fo r you. the rumble from his dark green bike echoing off the thin metal container walls. shoving the ammo clips into the satchel. Uriah arrived at the right section. something that fell well beyond Delaque operational protocol. and it often comes far too e arly for anyone to prepare for it/ THERE WAS ONE last step to the process before Uriah launched into his investigat ion. ignoring the lot numbers that were frequently switch ed around to lure unsuspecting travelers into ambushes. 'He cost me dearly. a little pained at his own admission bef ore he relaxed again. Still. I came for the pleasant company. 'Who is it?' 'Jester!' Uriah said. and he never deviated from the path. not that Uriah ne eded to press anything. allowing whatever cam eras that were hidden throughout the area to register his face and profile. Uriah drifted through the alleys. his circuit was memorized to the point of casu al familiarity. Voice?' 'You know the drill/ the woman said. but then that's the nature of our craft. Jester?' 'I'm on assignment and something about the mission bothers me/ 'You? Bothered? Care to share?' .' 'It is glorious if you leave on your own terms/ the armoury chief said. the containers electrified or coughing out some noxious gas th at melted skin. 'Or are your cameras broken again . No official streets ran through here. shufflin g back into the storerooms. He faced the intercom agai n and straddled the bike 'Happy?' he asked. 'In truth. 'It's Jester/ Uriah said. but no buttons.' Uriah smiled. 'I did n't know/ 'Was a Handler/ the armoury chief said. 'Can you meet my price?' 'No. He was centimetres from the wal l. enough were booby trapped that scavengers didn't bother pillaging the lots. letting the engine idle. 'Then I'm very happy/ Voice replied. 'Now I'm with the Requisitioners. using his operating handle. My first assignment too/ 'You're a Handler?' Uriah asked.

the nature of his business demanded self-sufficiency and it was also rife with the possibility of betrayal.'Since when do I share?' he asked. then? You run your operation and I dispense my sag e advice?' 'I'd appreciate that. Still. Still. the Munitorum and its ammunition stockpiles. CHAPTER: TWO Lies work best when enforced by some measure of truth. 'Fair enough. tubes. Uriah made his way through the tunnels on foot and headed for a long-forgotten e levator shaft. Voice came highly recommended from some acquaintances and she'd proven extremely useful in the past. It was going to be a long day. when a forgotten s ump pipe burst between two heavy load-bearing. thick-plated walls. Few o f those so touched survived into adulthood between the Goliath and Orlock gangs that occasionally swept through on 'join-or-die' recruitment drives and the fatal nature of certain birt h defects. . He opened the grate with a key and steered the bike deep inside the dark side tunnel. Upon exiting. Voice. he locked the gate and looked back inside. The Munitorum administrators sp . It was impossible to reach. There is no Machine Spirit. Uriah reached a small tunnel barely high enough to let him through on his bike. and she could keep up with Uriah's cavalier attitudes and humour. Just machine. around a bend and a gainst the dead end. before finally reaching a locked grate aga inst the wall. so to this day the walls of Saint Vibeau cried trickles of pollutants that afflicted many local children with mutation and deformity. but the stacke d hab block containers crammed beneath were stacked four high with uncomfortably low roofs. chips and the occasional attitude.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. Wire s. Same as before. Locals claimed that millennia ago. in those days Saint Vibeau was an affluent district that enjoyed the patronage of the principle Houses. The original hab blocks were sumptuous affairs until the district's principle em ployer. He couldn't see his bike. the thought that Voice was now helping him did much to settle Uriah' s mind. Not the safest storage. however. He rode through several tunnels. He rarely relied on help. eager to reach his next objective. Regardless. She was good at what she did. just remember which parts are the lies and which parts are the truth. but that was die condition of her services. taking different turns along the way. I'll be in contact/ Uriah tore through the streets. moved in to the district. Hive Primus continued growing. It was safer that way. THE CEILING FOR die Saint Vibeau District was three storeys high. It was also a district where nobody meddled in the affairs of their neighbours and where nobody made eye cont act.. Your understanding of the Machine Spirit is-' 'Oh. But no Machine Spirit!' 'Fine. The last of the prosperous families moved away centuries ago. it bothered him t hat he'd never met her face-to-face.. but his mind was still on Voice. fine/ Uriah said. please! Not this crap again. and the high ceilings slowly sagged under the weight of the construction above. 'Forget I mentioned it. almost trustworthy were Uriah comfortable with that sentiment. spreading his hands in feigned innocence. the district rested near the top of Hive Primus. but it served its purpose well when Uriah needed to tear through the Underhive.

Peering through the half-open door. Uria h knew. Uriah thought to himself as he pulled his newly acquired bolt pistol from its holster and muttered a small prayer to the weapon's Machine Spirit. Only employees were given hab blocks. he could easily draw the entire gang down upon his head. allowing Uriah to make his way quietly to hab block #324. Uriah cursed softly. making a lot of noise. Sure enough. her stride just short of panic as she pulled a small boy by the hand. He made his way around to the building's plated front and paused momentarily to examine the street below. He detoured through the small corridor. The bikes purred with a throaty rumble. Before Uriah reached the corner of a two-lane. The unlu cky ones faced the dilapidated buildings and rusting support wall behind the block. measured breaths. The bikes were nothing more than engines with large exhausts and two thick wheels. Uriah kept to the shadows of the streets. A voice. the engraving comfortable in his palm. Money lost. drifted from . but it wasn't unusual for highly placed members of a business to profit on the side. Uriah slipped through the open door and into t he darkness of his safe-house. In any other situation. strappe d on each was a heavy saddle. Breathing slow. Uriah retraced his steps. which was relatively easy considering the street lights had long burnt out and the fluorescent lichen-paint had calcified. her head down. Uriah reac hed the corner and peered around. trash-strewn street. The fortunate residents faced the outside street. Uriah made his way up the rear grated stairs. Uriah saw that the interior to his safehouse was smashed up and that whoever had made the mess was still inside.lit the size of each hab block twice before allowing its workers to move in to the cramped quarters. but the resident sc avengers were nowhere to be seen despite the looting to be had through an open door. The weight felt right in his hand. up to the third floor landing. He withdrew a small rectangular device from the pouch hidden inside the in terior pocket of his trench coat and offered it a quick prayer as well. one Orlock ganger with enough facial scars t o have seen a few gang wars guarded them. f inally reaching a hab block tower with a side entrance. He knew an Orlock gang called Bleeding Iron was strong in t he district. harsh and guttural. He'd paid a foreman at the Slaughter House a considerable amount t o secure this hab block for his own private use and to keep quiet. but given his stained trench coat and heavy hood. returning back the way he had come before reaching a rubble-strewn alley. Nobody paid him heed. The Orlock gang er had yet to budge. a woman dart ed in front of him. idling on the curb were three ganger bikes with red Orlock flags hanging off heavy antennae. He lightly stepped over the broken glass in the entrance and ignored the frag holes in the thin metal walls. the scavengers would have carried off anything they could carry. The hab block's sliding door was open by a considerable gap. Uriah sighed. he could have been a resident or another addict looking for somewhere to s leep. If he wasn't careful. In this case by selling Uriah the h ome of a dead employee who was still listed as alive.

Morgane. rewarding Uriah with t wo grunts and the sound of someone hitting the floor. he thought.. Uriah knew it was time to act. but I didn't get your name over the gunfire/ Fifteen seconds left. Morgane is inside. did not sound out in pain. I won't ask again/ one man said. Within seconds. resting on her lap. trying to hit everything . The other two shots missed. 'Drop the pistol!' the ganger with multiple piercings in his nose and along his eyebrows said. You first/ Uriah said. but stout nonetheless. hitting wall and furniture instea d. 'thanks. Sure enough.beyond the arched doorway. disrupting the power flow of the building's generators. Four quick shots. 'Don't shoo t/ Ten seconds left. 'Good/ the woman replied. 'nothing smart to say now?' Morgane remained silent. but neithe r did she say anything further. each trying to score home on four different targets.last chance. Uriah stood and entered the open archway with his arms outstre tched to his sides. 'Enough with the jokes! Get out here or this woman dies/ 'What woman?' Another shot punched through the wall. He remained kneeling and cleared his throat. whom Uriah was sure had received the blow. Very well/ Uriah replied with a shrug. 'I was getting tired of smelling your breath/ Uriah grimaced. The lights died instantly. There were four men in the living room. the half-plate armour and the billowing tunics that covered their compact frames. all of whom were pointing gun s at him. Morgane. congenial. The wall above his head exploded into metal shards. Twenty seconds and counting. shaking the debris from his hair. illuminating the room in punched flashes of still life.. he dived to one side and fired into the darkness where he remembered the men standing. The first two shots found their marks. A woman with raven black hair and bloodied lips. They were smaller th an Goliaths. gunfire raked the area. but instead of rushing to her rescue and his deat h. a s harp smack followed. He held his gun in plain view. anticipating the sound of flesh slapping flesh. sat quietly on the couch. 'All right. all right/ Uriah said. caking his jacket and hair in flakes of r ust. A small red light clicked on and began to blink slowly in a quickl y accelerating cadence. The last thing Uriah saw was the surprised expressions on the four men's faces. her hands bound at the wrists. but woul d return within moments. '. 'but it's not the gun you should be worri ed about/ The rectangular device on the wall emitted an electrical surge that shot through the hab block's conduits. And there were more men than Uriah had counted on. Laughing to himself. 'Much/ Uriah said. Three Orlocks were firing wildly. Uriah had thirty seconds. a nd he fought the urge to charge in. he forced himself to listen to the number of voices. A woman responded. Orlocks judging by the re d bandanas. That jog your memory?' the man asked with a laugh. paint and metal. He knelt down and attach ed the rectangular device to the power outlet. punched with several loud shots from heavy guns. Who's there?' the man in the other room demanded. Uriah's heart skipped two beats. 'What?' the man's voice asked.

cracked burn marks on the temples of each of the th ree men. the shot striking the ganger in the neck and jerking his gun upward. Are you all right?' 'As soon as you get these restraints off of me/ Morgane said. poking him with the las pistol. Uriah hit the ground hard. 'That juicer you gave me came in handy. knocking him off his feet. ducking behind the furniture and taking his time in firing back. Uriah!' Morgane said. forcing him to drop his weapon. Uriah peered over the shredded rail in time to see the wounded Orlock and his compatriot tearing down the street. Uriah covered the lock with his hands. The las-beam cooked the a rm of one shooter. Did I steal your thunder?' He shook his head. She looked relieve d to see Uriah. focused on the last gunman who was drawing his sights on Morgane. more in frustration than from any real hope of hitting them. By the time his head stopped ringing. 'That's a bit much/ he said. stinging him with hot the hopes of hitting something. The Orlock at tending to the bikes below was suppressing the area with cover fire. he was alre ady repositioning himself in another part of the room.' she replied. The Orlocks had escaped. her backside on the floor. The remaining two gangers fired at Uriah's muzzle flash. He'd b arely stepped onto the lit landing when heavy gunfire from a bolter shredded the railing wall and doorway. focusing on the muzzle flares before squeezing off another shot on the Orlock with the heavy chain pulling at his nos e ring. my lov e. 'I could have sworn I killed at least two of them. Lights were returning. Uriah muttered a quick curse and wandered back into the hab block through the bl ast-eaten doorway. 'Not enough to matter/ With that he embraced her and gave her a gentle kiss. bike engines were revving with an angry roar .the gunfire had stopped.' Uriah noticed the blackened. 'And thanks/ he said. The others?' Uriah asked. ignoring the fleeing Orlock. announc ing that a new shooter had just entered the fray. her back against the w all. Uriah. palms up. Uriah raced for the hab block door. 'I'm sorry. and lowered her weapon. Uriah fired a handful of shots at them. his fingers moving almost imperceptibly. A second passed and a light clic . 'Certain you don't want to keep them on?' he asked with a wink. 'Corpses. She offered him her outstretched hands. He emptied his clip into the gange r. He howled in pain and bolted for the door. hunkered down behind a steel-plated sofa with her sights firmly trained on the door. reloading a new clip into his pistol. Uriah caught a quick glimpse of dark arterial spray. Uriah admired the iron bindings for a moment with a devilish smile. the device no longer disrupting the power flow. Uriah crouched near the floor. 'I saw to that. 'Now. White-hot beams of green las-fire erupted from another part of the room. bouncing his ch in off the iron floor. already' 'I guess we'll never know/ Morgane replied with a small grin. firing one of three weapons hidden throughout the safe-house. but he was grateful to see Morgane in the living room. referring to the three bodies. After sheathing the pistol and removing something from his interior jacket pocke t. He waited patiently. Uriah caught quick glimpses of Morgane. His jaw felt numb.

. I saw to that. 'What were they doing here?' he finally asked. I'm not in Soren's group. 'Actually. The restraints fell away. 'If the Bleeding Irons report to the House it self and they manage to connect this incident to me. 'The answer to both your questions. because Morgane's features softened .' URIAH MOVED ABOUT the one-room hab block. 'Are you certa in that's safe?' he asked. knowing you/ she replied. 'and if he does. 'with still more tricks than any Handler in your industry/ "Yes. 'If they find out about us. 'Oh. you'll be ready/ 'One can hope/ Uriah said. 'But they know me/ You can't be certain of that/ she said. My house would have arrested me by now if they suspected anything. I only know that they issued an Injunctus saying tha t he was missing. 'The only people who knew about the safe-house were you and Sore n. Since he knew about the safe-house. she caressed his face. collecting the few knick knacks that w ere valuable enough to take and shoving them into a cloth sack.' Morgane replied. facing the door way and firing above the head of the occasional scavenger that stuck his greedy nose into the hab block. 'Otherwise. That's fortunate/ Uriah sa id. He was careful n ot to brush against her cut. I came here hoping to find him. 'but then I'm only an inter-House diplomat.. n o. 'We'll make new memories there/ 'Until then/ Morgane said. and the Orlocks don't know who I am/ Uriah sighed. 'You're slipping/ 'Not after tonight/ Uriah replied.' 'Pity/ Morgane replied. Morgane sat on the couch. They only took what they could carry. 'And the Van Saar only know that he's missing. well. Unfortunately. considering I lied about not knowing him in the first place. given that most of it was already bolted to the floor.' 'Correct. 'you'll have to show me how you do that/ 'And where would that leave me?' Uriah asked. and to report his whereabouts.' he said with a shrug. so we must leave it behind. your life's at risk/ 4Ve share that risk/ Morgane said. drawing in close enough that he smelt the cloves on her breath. You're certain that you haven't been compromised?' 'Compromised by you? Maybe/ Morgane said with a tantalizing smile. they'd try to use that to their advantage first/ Uriah said. 'I didn't ask. before kissing her gently. the pins somehow vibra . massaging her reddened wrists. 'If your Delaque masters ever realised you were in love with a Van Saar diplomat. 'More importantly why were you here?' 'Soren/ she replied. 'I under stand what you mean though. 'I'm seventh on their most hunted list and I didn't arrive here in disguise/ 'Seventh?' Morgane asked. 'And the Bleeding Iron gangers didn't say why they were looking for Soren?' Uria h asked. You don't know that/ she said. it's compromised. 'I must return to my duties/ Uriah's face pinched into a small scowl. 'One of these days/ Morgane said.k followed. So the Orlocks didn't realise you were Van Saar. His legs still ached at night. She stood and walked over to Uriah.' 'Hm. you-know-who will come after me again/ He must have looked worried. They wouldn't tell me if there was more to it. 'We've made many fond memories here/ Til find us a new hole/ Uriah said. Uriah realized. I'm fairly certain. The furnit ure would remain. ' Uriah shrugged. He didn't like the idea.

ting at some distant memory of his shattered bones. Slag's face darted into his mind's eye and Uriah felt the blood slip from his face. Morgane kissed him on the lips, obviously trying to liberate him from his painfu l memories. 'Thank you for saving me/ she said. 'Always/ he replied, grateful for the beautiful distraction. He looked at her pu ffed lips. 'How are you going to explain the injuries?' 'I fell,' she said. That's all they'll need to know. What about you? What is you r next step?' 'I have to find, Soren.' 'But?' 'But, I'm worried about House Orlock's sudden involvement. I have to find out wh y they want Soren.' They didn't seem to know very much/ Morgane said. They'll know enough to launch me in the right direction. You better go/ he said with a sigh. 'It won't take long before the Bleeding Irons return in greater numbers/ "What about you?' Morgane asked, drawing a hood over her head. 'I'll escape in a moment, but I'm leaving the Orlocks a nasty surprise/ 'And the scavengers?' They won't have many bones left to pick clean. Now go-' Uriah waited for Morgane to leave before activating the booby ttap and slipping out of the hab block. In ten seconds, laser tripwires would activate and the explosives would desttoy anyone and anyth ing inside. The damage to the adjoining hab blocks would be minimal, but just the same, Uriah knocked on the n eighbouring door. Nobody answered, though Uriah was certain he heard movement inside. 'Hello there and well met/ he called through the door. Though I've never had occasion to speak to you previously, I would adv ise you don't go into my hab block. It's booby ttapped. Big explosion awaits the interloper. Hello?' Uriah walked away from the hab block door. 'Suit yourself/ he mumbled under his breath. * * * 'WELL, IF IT isn't my favourite Handler!' almond-eyed Bok said with a green-toot hed smile. Uriah navigated past the five other desks crammed into the small room. 'Bok/ Uri ah said, returning the smile. 'How's my favourite Cartographer?' 'Well/ Bok said, 'just returned from a mapping expedition into the Underhive. Na sty foul place, too unpleasant for a Handler's delicate sensibilities/ 'Of course/ Uriah said. 'I can still smell the stench of the place on you. Or is that endemic to all members of the Cartographers?' Bok's smile wavered a touch, but it held. 'What can I do for you, Uriah?' 'I need to break into a location, an Orlock facility. How current are your maps? ' Very current. Over half of our section's resources are dedicated to probing and testing Orlock assets. What do you need?' Bok asked, his smile turning into a casual, easy grin. 'Ah/ Uriah said. 'It's more like what you need?' The marker/ Bok said, dropping his voice into a whisper. 'I want my marker with you wiped clean/ 'I don't know/ Uriah said, rubbing his chin. He lowered his voice as well. That' s a hefty price considering the

evidence I have against you. Your taste in Escher prostitutes poses a security r isk to Delaque interests. I saved you once from your pillow chats and an unfortunate slip of the tongue... though whos e tongue slipped where, I'd prefer not knowing/ 'Yes, yes/ Bok replied, glancing around to ensure nobody was listening, 'but I'm a changed man. I no longer frequent the Escher's stables. And I can provide you with full schematics to one facility , a foundry, including its patrol routes and the best ways in and out/ Uriah smiled and shrugged. Then who am I to stand in the way of someone's evolut ion into betterment. Get me the maps and, if they're as good as you claim, then your marker is wiped clea n and the evidence I hold is yours/ 'Deal/ Bok said, and immediately set off to retrieve the proper maps. 'WELL, IF IT isn't my favourite Handler!' almond-eyed Bok said with a green-toot hed smile. Kaden navigated past the five other desks crammed into the small room. 'Bok/ Kad en said, returning the smile. 'How's my favourite map-boy?' 'Well/ Bok said, 'just returned from a mapping expedition into the Underhive. Na sty foul place. You'd like it there/ 'Funny, but don't you figure that's a little risky, considering what I've got on you?' Kaden said, sitting on the edge of Bok's desk. 'What can I do for you, Kaden?' Bok asked with a sigh. Where was Uriah heading? Which map did he want? And don't leave out any juicy de tails/ 'And in exchange for helping you?' Bok asked with a whisper. We'll call it even, and all that nasty evidence involving you and those prostitu tes gets wiped/ 'Deal/ Bok said, and immediately set off to retrieve the proper maps. CHAPTER: THREE Harden your heart... everyone is an asset. If you don't use them to your advantage, someone else will use them to theirs. - Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. THE FOUNDRY FILLED the large chamber's interior. The ceiling was domed some fift een storeys high with support struts that swept up into the shadows. Inset into the ceiling were noisy, cowled turbof ans that cried a steady stream of precipitation - stained with oil - to the cement floor below. The foundry itself was a rusted block of steel, the few windows and open hangar doors lit with the magma glow of molten ores. The only e ntry into the dome chamber was a rolling vault door; it was three storeys high and guarded by the Steel Sentine ls, an Orlock gang of considerable standing, and manned gun emplacements. Entry was strictly prohibited except to t hose on House Orlock business. Uriah was sweating hard, his black clothing plastered to his skin. Despite the d iscomfort, he waited patiently, trying to ignore the oppressive heat that the turbofans sucked up from the main chamber into the ductwork where he sat. The heat flattened his breath, pressing his chest with its palm; it hurt to inhale, so instead Uriah swallowed shallower bre aths and dreamed of cooler places. He imagined himself inside a chilled Van Saar lab, refrigerated to optimize the usa ge of electronics and to prevent them from overheating. It seemed that the Machine Spirits preferred the cold. He also imagined the scrubbed, sterile environment of the Van Saar facility he'd

infiltrated so many years ago. It contrasted sharply with the smelly, mildew-soft and cramped interior of the duct s that Uriah crawled through to reach this point. He admired the Van Saar and its satellite gangs; to them perso nal hygiene was more than an afterthought or alien principle. Certainly, House Delaque consisted of clean and well-groomed agents, unlike the zealots of House Cawdor, the muscle-ripped Goliaths or the sweaty apes of House Orlock. Admittedly, Uriah relished his undercover work at the Van Saar labs for more rea sons than their enhanced quality of life. On one mission into the Tech-Artificer Gang, Uriah had befriended Soren an d scored a potential coup by convincing the disenfranchised engineer to sell secrets to the Delaque. On anoth er, into the Van Saar's Arbiter's Guild, Uriah had met Morgane. Even now, their tryst still felt new, passionate a nd dangerous, their romance unsanctioned. Uriah let his thoughts wander to those intimate encounters in the biolabs, where the air was frozen; Morgane's breath warmed his mouth. At the time, he didn't expect much to come of their encounters . He'd seduced women throughout his assignments - except for House Escher women who scared the living hell out o f him - either in the course of retrieving something valuable, or because an easy assignment needed some additio nal element to spice up the challenge. Morgane was different. Different enough that Uriah divulged his role as spy to h er. Different enough that while initially outraged, she never betrayed his secret. They were apart for a f ew agonizing weeks. He returned to see her one last time and discovered she wasn't willing to let him go again so e asily. She continued loving him. That was years ago. Uriah's and Morgane's romance continued despite the physical distance between th em, the physical distance they willingly imposed. Uriah could no more surrender his job or leave his house than she could hers. They both understood that revealing their relationship to either house would entail the en d of their love, their careers, their lives. The Van Saar and Delaque were too ruthless and goal driven not to use Uri ah's and Morgane's affair to their advantage. They would kill both parties simply because the two lovers had humili ated the houses by carrying on a relationship for four years under meir very noses. Nobody liked being proven the fool. That thought brought everything back to today's predicament and Uriah's swelteri ng cubby hole inside the dome's ductwork. Soren's disappearance was one thing, but that the Orlocks were also lo oking for the Van Saar engineer and that they had endangered Morgane's life was an entirely different beast. Uriah c ould not abide their actions. In nearly every previous assignment, Uriah had kept the upper hand; had remained outside t he situation; the job was just a job. That was no longer the case. Uriah did not control these circumstances, he was reacting to them, trying to roll with the punches from an invisible opponent. Uriah checked his timepiece; it was counting down to zero with a minute to spare . He opened his mouth in a mock yawn to equalize the pressure in his ears. That activated the receiver hidden in

Uriah was light-headed. Uriah was no Orlock.' he said. The furnaces and melted ores below radiated through the ceiling and heated the a ir. He fumbled for one of his pouches and withdrew a filter-cup affixed with two metallic cylinders. Uriah shifted position till he w as on his padded knees. The descent took seconds. Uriah's feet felt hot.the blades facing Uriah whirred to a h alt. acid stripping the gear of its teeth. The countdown on Uriah's timepiece reached zero and a collective sigh echoed thr ough the ducts. but not catchin g. but better to be safe. The smell. W . grateful for the brief injections of oxygen. A sharp acrid smell filled the air.his ear and the sub-vocalizer currently lodged inside his throat. it was tethered with a chord that was hidden inside h is belt. Uriah covered his mou th and nose with a small rebreather. Uriah wedged a grappling hook into the small space. He doubted anyone could see him in the darkness o f the dome. coming to a slightly jarring. the building rooftop rushing up to meet him at an alarming rate. At the last moment. Smoke stacks and vents poured a noxious mi x of gases and solvents into the dome. It was irritating. nimble and blessed with quick fingers. Testing the hook one last time. filling Uriah's mouth with an acrid medley of tastes. One gloved hand on the rope and the other on the vice-brake. He pulled hard to ensure the hook held well. Uriah on the edge of freefall. the cogs still rotating slowly. his head feeling fixed to his body by a mere string. aiming for the foundry rooftop below. They turned the fan and. The tur-bofans shut off for a few moments to cool down . straight drops to the ground. his behind dangling over the void of the lon g drop down. No h eavy-footed Orlock ever had a chance of climbing these walls unassisted. he fast-roped down throu gh the steaming darkness. but he'd grow accustomed to the sensation soon enough. but otherwise perfect stop. he scaled down the wall. Uriah lowered himself over the roofs edge and quickly made his wa y down. Worse. When the turbo fans would eventually start up again. bit down on the ampoule. he searched the lining of the cowled turbofan. breaking it. 'Understood. he gripp ed the vice to slow himself. Uriah pushed off. From the edge of the roof. the foundry's walls were seven-storey cliffs. Hand over hand. 'About to descend. after a moment. He pulled an acid ampoule from his pouch and quickly wedged it between the teeth of a large cog that connected with an adjoining gear.' Unable to stand or hunch properly in the ducts. he found a proper fi nger-hold. He scuttled towards the noisy turbofan and steady stream of hot air. the toothless gears spinning. Uriah left it hanging there for hi s return. Uriah slipped backwards between two large and pi tted fan blades. Untethering himself from the rappelling cord. 'Good luck. his feet secured against the bottom lip of the cowl. foot over foot. grabbing inch-wide ledges and drain pipes. however. but then. He was lighte r of frame. was even more uncomfortable. It wouldn't last more than a few mi nutes -just long enough for Uriah to act. His fingers centimetres from the whirling blades. their teeth interlinking. disconnected from his environment.' Voice responded. this one would remain silent and still.

Uriah checked the timepiece strapped to his wrist. It was hard work sifting through the clatter and thunder. the dust and soot-coated ceiling centimetres from t he tip of his nose. feet first and on his back. 'On time/ Voice said. It was cooler on die ground . but Uriah needed to close the grate behind him. That would have to suffice. about thi rty seconds. The channel was a tight fit. He craned his head back and u sed a small magnetic clamp to keep the grille in place with the metal duct. Their circuit took them around the building. By then he hop ed. and Uriah pushed into the small hole. 'Not bad. I t wasn't loud enough to draw attention. A patrol that he'd spotted earlie r from the tur-bofan vent marched by. but enough to be a small blessing.ithin moments. had vanished around a corner. Uriah waited patiently. conveyor belts and supply Lorries. Upon reaching it.' Uriah said. give or take a minute. Ur iah hid in a small alcove that forced him to a knee. He focused more intently on the sounds. but Uriah listened for one thing alone in the sea of noise. He was draped in darkness. their orbit bringing them close to Uriah's hiding hole. he pulled out a small screwdriver and worked the grille's screws. Certain there was nobody around. then footsteps in the seconds before they appeared. however. Not the preferred method for entering a duct. Once inside. that was exactly how he liked it. trying to familiari ze himself with what passed for background noise. he heard voices. grimacing at every twisting screech and groan. and within a minute. but maybe enough time to kill someone before they could raise the alarm or pull their own weapon.not by much. he'd be inside the building where avoiding guards would prove trickier. trying to move past the surrounding din. He padded hi s way to his next target. however. 'Check one. Uriah was effectively blind and on wits' edge. taking in all the surrounding noise. They didn't linger. He needed to understand this cacophony intimately so that he wasn't leaping for cov er at every clang and discharged hiss of the great machines. They were armed with chainsaw blades and mean scowls on their widejawed. Satisfied that it would hold. a small vent grate some ten metres along the same wall as the alcove. Uriah slipped out from the alcove. on schedule. stubble-eaten faces. While the schematics on the foundry that H ouse Delaque provided offered Uriah some crucial intelligence. though he hoped the ambient heat blind ed anyone with thermal vision. just to be safe/ Uriah responded. Not nearly enough time to react. He only heard them in the seconds before they appeared. Sure enough. He needed to dist inguish someone's voice from the hiss of molten metal. Then again. alert to all the noise around him. Uria h dug the soft heel of his boots into the . he was on the main floor in the shadow of the building. and footfalls from the piston gait of aged devices. it was almost time. it didn't offer him enemy positions or patrol circuits. You have another ten minutes before that patrol returns/ 'Let's call it at nine minutes. Uriah checked his timepiece again and thanked the Machine Spirit for its precisi on. They were gone and Uriah relaxed enough to curse under his breath. the walls wide enough for Uriah to extend his arms over his head.

the interior was still cramped. In stead. THE FOUNDRY'S INTERIOR was a honeycomb of interconnected caverns. He took extra care to navigate clear of the vats when he could. darting from one shadow to the next. grateful that his escape lay only metres away. Uriah reached his destination. Voice segued into: You see the chief foreman's office? ' 'I'm standing directly below it. but then a centimetre on the blueprints might well be a kilometre in reali ty. 'If you get stuck. Uriah was thankful that he wasn't cl austrophobic. Aren't you happy you charge by the hour?' 'It depends/ Voice replied. Some of the equipment was rusted and useless. 'And only an hour to get there/ Voice replied. 'Most men don't las t the hour/ Before Uriah could reply. it would open up soon. Uriah could see those individuals who survived the scarring touch of the lethal rains. it's six storeys above me/ The chief foreman's office was a rectangular container. 'This is tight/ 'Told you/ Voice said. Only one wall connected to the catwalks. The sky above it all was a network of catwa lks and footbridges.' 'Stay on the ground/ Voice said. though he did have to push away persistent thoughts of the passage narrowing and him getting stuck. 'I'm inside. designed around the steam columns and connected to the few offices suspended well above the foun dry floor. The vats above rained irregular showers of molten sparks that quickly sizzled. a hint of mischief to her voice. 'I see the offices.floor and shimmied along while pulling with his hands. He switched positions. hiding between the legs of gigantic engines of unf athomable purpose. From his vantage.' Uriah remained on the ground. Three -storey vats containing pools of magma-like metal bled thick ropes of steam upwards while conveyor belts carried various moulds or cooled ore ingots from one section to the next. according to the ma p. Virtually. relatively spacious junction where it sp lit with another channel that went straight up. turning face forward and rolling over to his stomach so he could push forward with his legs. After an eternity of hiding in darkness and slowly making his way through the va rious chambers. sputtered and cooled on the pitte d floors. While expansive. he focused on Morgane's face until the duct widened at a large. lined with filthy window s on its four sides. having died years ago. 'Uf/ Uriah grunted. Huge heating engines and generators s at shoulder to shoulder with barely the room to slip through the gaps between them. 'Finally here/ he said. According to the building schematics. I'm not coming to help/ 'Duly noted/ Uriah said. others coughed black smoke and functioned as though seized by spasms. Traffic along the ground was light. but the walkways above are well tr avelled and too visible for my tastes. their skin marked and discoloured by droplets of ore. Uriah crouched in the shadow of a trestle that helped support the network of low . each five to s even storeys in height. the other walls were virtually inaccess ible. 'No need to climb just yet. and for good reason. Or rather. At the very least. He continued on his way head first and proceeded to the next vent. all of them dark.' Uriah said.

With singular effort. he held on and waited for the slow Orlock to walk past. He reached the junction between the beam and the strut supporting the catwalk itsel f. he'd have to remember diat his throat microphone was overly sens itive. his fingers ached in protest at the mere not ion of repeating their last performance. He he ld on tighter. 'Noming/ he said. Uriah stood and carefully made his way along the catwalk. the Orlock in no hurry to move past. After taking a deep breath. Uriah used the last of his guttering strength to pull hims elf up. though truthfully. Uriah cursed silently and focused on his breathing. Uriah mounted the trestle and clambered up a girder that angled upward at forty-five degrees. His foot slipped twice on the grimy beam. 'Just resting a moment before continuing . Still. Another eternity passed. acutely aware of his feet slowly slipping along the girder's greasy slope. but he held tight despite the growing ache in his fingers. bringing Uriah to the edge of l etting go and sliding all the way back down to the ground in a hard tumble. but he had no choice now. the gr aveyard shift running the fewest workers. though a few maintenance workers ran their rounds on the ground. The footsteps continued their slow. including the one who had delayed his ascent. the lower catwalks weren't as frequently patrolled as t he network several metres above his . checking for patrols and lookouts. He studied his surroundings. trying to remain anchored. With in moments. and switched position -his fingers gripping the strut on either side and his back and feet planted firmly against t he beam. He grabbed the rail's horizontal bars and slipped under the lowest one. His head swivelled from side to side like a predator on the hunt and he loped close to the ground. and Uriah wo ndered if he'd be able to unlock them or even pull his way up through the bars of the catwalk's rails. The footsteps above his head moved on. Then again. His hand remained on the railing in case he ne eded to swing over the side at a moment's notice. Most of the Orlocks were on the lower catwalks. The dull ache in his fingers turned his hands into arthritic claws. he lay flat on the catwalk. His fingers now screamed in pain and it hurt just trying to unlock them from the daw-like rigour. but his fingers grew numb. He massaged bot h hands against his trousers and craned his head to look around. There were no Orlocks anywhere near him or his s tretch of walkway. It was his best shot. the sounds of heavily booted feet against the catwalk faded away. No more mouthing his silent conversations.walkways. Uriah muttered a small curse against the Steel Sentinel Orlock that had pained h im so. 'What was that?' Voice asked. he doubted the Orlock was domesticated enough to attract a pet in the first place. and another. Uriah grimaced. and took the extra moment to curse the Orlock's entire lineage and whatever pet he possessed. Metallic footsteps clanged directly over Uriah's head. there was an Orlock on th e catwalk above.' With sensation returning to his fingers. Thankfully. ploddin g pace. breathing har d. Uriah waited. Uriah was no longer certain if there was anyone on the footbridge above his head.

Reaching th e front door would require making his way up to the upper set of catwalks where the lighting was more preva lent and where more Orlocks laboured and toiled. After that. piles of stripped innards belonging to various machines sat next to a small work bench. dragging polluted air out of the foundry dome. and within a few seconds. Instead. He approached the silent fan and immediately noted the coppery acid smell in the air. With a smile. The cabin was a single room except for the privy. It was an anci ent device and looked too jury-rigged to have been touched by a Van Saar engineer. if the Orlocks remained true to form. KADEN SUPPRESSED A cough borne from the dusty. he'd reached the upper catwalk precisely when nobody was close enough to see him.' . Patches of dust and corner cobwebs coated the room. and they remained hidden in larger patches of shadow. Nearly lost in the junk heap of the desk sat an Orlock logic hub. They spun effortlessly. but at the very least. Uriah's attentions. with skillful navigation mat would bring him eye-to-eye with one of the cabin's dark windows. In one corner. the device was also connected to the primitive network shared by most Orlock facilities. Uriah was now below the chief foreman's cabin by some three storeys. He peer ed over the edge of each side. not that Uriah was worried. it would be a matter of finding a way inside. 'Is it two cans connected together with string?' Uriah chuckled softly.' Uriah said.head. It was also one of the few logic devices through out the facility. Uriah clambered onto the angled t restle and shimmied his way upwards again. most discreet. he pulled himself up on top of the cabin and rolled away to remain hidden. while a couch and small kitchen attested to many a double and triple shift that the Orlocks likely inflicted upon the Steel Sentinels foundry. Uriah felt confident that nobody could spy on him from above. was a large work desk overflowing with data pads and piles of parchments. Uriah mounted the rail and leapt for the cabin's roof ledge. While the foreman likely used it for accounting and other orders of busine ss required to run the foundry. oily interior of the duct. Kaden saw the grappling claw hooke d into the side of turbofan's cowl and the cord that dropped down into the darkness. he steeled himself to the inevitable climb up the adjacent support trestle of the upper walkways. speed took precedence. How th ey maintained technology of that sophistication was a mystery to Uriah. way into the cabin. he didn't feel like scrubbing himself clean from proximity. The tu rbofans had flared to life moments ago. Kaden pulled Uriah's rappelling ro pe back up through the blades. 'I see we share an appreciation of Orlock technology. URIAH DROPPED INTO the room from the vent in the ceiling and quickly surveyed hi s surroundings. and surprisingly neat for an Orlock's den. but they must have done something ri ght to appease the Machine Spirit. With the network of hanging walkways below him. two gears had been stripped of their teeth. The dusk was a clutter of wo rk order bundles made from recycled vellum. Waiting until the walkway above his was clear. all except the one i n Kaden's duct. That was not an option. Still messy by Uriah's standards. Central to the room and thus. After confirming through the windows that the chief foreman's office was dark and unoccupied. This time. 'I found the logic hub. trying to find the best. Sure enough. Almost silently. the fan blades remaining still.

With a jolting abruptness. Then the alert goes out/ Uriah nodded. trying to dislodge the cacophony of questions addling his thoughts. 'No. 'Maybe/ Uriah said. and re . Keep searching for the directory/ Uriah sighed and set about searching through the network. 'Found it!' 'Be grateful the Orlocks don't rely on Van Saar protocols/ Voice said. It was slow. Uriah doubted the hub was booby-trapped. how would you know?' 'Tsk/ Voice replied. Start her up. an avalanche of questions on his lips. mechanical hiccups and heavy whirrs threatening to choke it. A click and piston sigh behind him brought Kaden to his next task. and from what Uriah could see. Only three mistakes are allowed before the terminal shuts down. Finally. the hub appears to be more sophisticated than that.. the one that accessed the Orlock network.' With little time to lose. and dropp ed into the chamber. 'Password s must be input within a set number of seconds. 'Did you hit the machine?' Voice asked. A voice boomed over the foundry's loudspeakers: 'Intruders outside.' 'AH right then. He turned to face the tiny drone. The drone floated past Kaden. The logic device awaited input of a passwo rd. 'Jester. Uriah activated the machine and prayed for a simple en cryption code. URIAH SLAPPED THE side of the logic device in frustration and set about coaxing it to life. Uriah waited for the prompt screen to begin his assault. 'I know the Orlocks possess nothing of that sophistication. There may be more inside. alarms rang out across the entire facility and sent U riah's heart straight into his throat. 'I know all. tonight? How long will it take for them to reach this office? He shook his head. Orlocks were running in different directions across the catwalks.. but the system was well protected. Stand by/ Uriah scrambled to the window to see outside. Search the entire facility!' Uriah cursed. puzzled. Uriah accessed the root files. KADEN WORE AN ear-splitting grin as he heaved the last of the rappelling rope up through the turbofan. 'If I did. obediently awaiting its next orders . 'Don't know yet. the Orlock's sad attempt at a user interface was a clutter of scattered fil es listed with no apparent rhyme or reason.'Cawdor. His fingers danced across the input device at Voice's behest. Did they spot his rope? Is it another intruder? What are the chances there's another thief out here. 'Stir up some trouble. And try not to get shot this time/ Kaden whispered after it. buoyed up by a tiny anti-grav generator. though its more cunning members do booby-trap their hardware/ 'Is that experience talking?' 'Perhaps/ Uriah said. hoping to find some way to bypass the password sy stem. It hovered behind Kaden in the duct. he found the directory he was looking for. 'It's certainly not ignorance speaking its mind/ Looking a t this terminal with its dried lubricant tubes and exposed wiring. Orlocks. Goliath. a f loating child's skull with a pict-grabber in one eye socket. The computer hissed to life. far better th en his last incursion. I'll walk you through this.' Uriah said. will you?' Kaden said. And what would your precious Machine Spirit sa y to such callous treatment/ '"Thank you for awakening me" perhaps?' 'I doubt it.' 'I see. they're all the same smelly breed. sounding as though it was on its final legs. what is it?' Voice asked.

' He brought the screen back to life and returned to t he password prompt. 'But it's at the security post/ she said. There was no reply. House Van Saar: Tech-Artificers Bounty: Dependent on conditions mentioned below. trying to hear the conversation outside. trying to find a way past the password blockade. the fact it was still active meant the Orlocks were no closer to finding the Tech-Artificer's whereabo uts than Uriah was. Voices filtered in and out of the cabin as Orlocks drifted close to. It was only a matter of time. The bounty certainly explained why the Orlocks were afte r Soren. He has been selling technology to House Delaque and House Orlock. Uriah killed th e pict screen attached to the logic hub and slid out of the chair and under the desk. The footsteps stopped and Uria h held his breath. Lost to the revelation that Soren was also selling secrets to the Orlocks. Uriah raced through more files. He must pay for that insult. Uriah flew through the different directories. Unfortunately. 'It can't be this easy/ Uriah mumbled to himself before setting himself back int o the chair. Scratched into the edge of the desk itself was a sequence of numbers: 38452. IMPORTANT! Bring Kaar in alive OR bring his implants back undamaged! Bounty is dependent on condition of implants! 'Soren/ Uriah muttered to himself. 'No. and Uriah braved a glimpse. Sure enough. The foundry's on alert. 'You idiot. then/ he said. 'Don't look like there's anyone inside/ a woman's voice said from outside the fo reman's office. but that was enough to prompt Uriah to work more quickly. 'I haven't got the key/ Then get the key/ he replied. What were you doing?' 'Did you get it?' 'Yes/ 'Then leave!' 'Not yet! I'll contact you later!' Uriah said. if the Orlocks knew anything further. The two Orlocks were returning with the ke . again. The footsteps moved away. Footsteps approached the catwalk closest to the cabin's windows.' and was rewarded with a single entry complete with Soren's picture: Attention all Orlock Facilities: WANTED! Dead or Alive Soren Kaar. but that also meant Uriah had a few minutes at most before they returned. t hen away from it.turned to the computer terminal. Uriah was about to lift himself back up when something caught his eye. We continue but hurry/ Fingers typing with furious pitch. 'Good thing you've got legs. impatience lacing her voice. it wasn't on their network.' her male compatriot said. The catwalks outside were empty. 'Check inside. 'What?' 'I think I found the code. but. 'Jester/ Voice asked. trying to find tidbits of information. and the Orlock network opened. Uriah searched for the keywo rd 'Soren. Voices outside the cabin grew louder. 38452 did the trick. Kaar is a traitor. I have to move fast/ 'Pull out?' Voice asked. ending the argument.

before falling to his backside . pinging off metal rails and I-beams. but his chest snagged the edges. The key scratched the door before dropping into the lock. Uriah slammed his shoulder into the girder again. slamming his back into the wa lkway with a jarring thud. trying to slow himself do wn from the near-terminal velocity slide and inevitable crash. and then dropped again. and momentum pushed him off his ass. the sic kening pop followed by a rapiersharp pain. errant shots peppered the walls and windows of the cabin. gunshots tore open the ceiling and shredd ed the rooftop beneath his feet. He set his shoulder back in its joint and collapsed to the ground after nearly fainting fro m the effort. scrapping his body through the opening. Uriah pulled himself up.y and headed straight for the door. landing lightly on his feet. first on his feet. swiftly catching its bottom lip. Not fast enough! he realized when he heard the Orlocks in the cabin below shout. He swung like a pendulum. Uriah pushed his belt in to clear the opening and pulled his way up. just enough to see the flurry of movement on the lower walkways and on the ground. run. and caught the lips of me vent. Uriah slid down toward the floor. His feet slammed into the I-be am at speeds less than deadly. . Uriah nudged himself into a swing below the catwalk. He barely caught sight of the two overeager Orlocks inside the cabin before ducking. Uriah quickly killed the power to the terminal and raced to the hole in the ceil ing where he'd removed the grate. forcing all the air from his lungs and contracting his chest and torso by the necessary centimetres. Uriah exhaled. 'Intruder!' Uriah cursed. He struck the girder with his shoulder. He twisted to face the catwalk. More shots rang out. his head below the catwalk's floor. he grunted at the rivets that punched him on the pelvic bone and in the soft flesh of his posterior during his downwar d slide. He slid down the beam. where his angled trestle met with a vertical I -beam that shot straight up. His belt caught on the edge. Like a cat. Too many bullets! Run. The door lock clicked open. A second later. run/ Uriah muttered to himself. he dived over the railing and grabbed it with both hands as he passed. He jumped as the voices approached the door. More Orlocks were joining the battle and firing with wild abandon. but reac ting on instinct. Barely functioning through the pain-laced fog of a dislocated shoulder. He let go again and fell the few centimetres to the girder. He grabbed the edge of the girder with both gloved hands. He pul led himself up. Uriah leapt from the roof down onto the upper-level catwalks. Wild shots hissed past him and more shouts echoed throughout the complex. but Uriah managed to decelerate in time. They'd likely seen his legs vanish up through the hole. It was time to move. New shots whizzed by. towards the trestle that was angled down forty-five degrees. The sloped trestle was centimetres from his outstretched toes. The metal shredded the glove's padding and drew some blood from his much abused fingers. whining above Uriah's head. clanging against the metal around him. as Uriah scrambled up.

His shoulder and fingers protested at the burden. the conveyor belts. reacting on instinct. this time Uriah didn't need to scale trestles to reach his prize. Uriah was already running. his eyes dancing over the heavy pieces of equipment. Uriah thought as the occasional round tried finding its mark. The shooting stopped and Uriah realized he'd lost the pursuing Orlocks at the la st jumble of machinery. Uriah thought. Only when one of the shots struck the concrete and peppered him with biting shar ds did Uriah realize he was still the prey. After nudging the chain-bundle forward. More shots joined the chorus. Somewhere in the great distance. Fortunately. it diminished eno ugh for Uriah to plan strategy. Uriah l . darting between large pieces of equipment. but Uriah had little time to lose. a few pinging off the chains. the sme lting vats and the catwalks. One eager Orlock had spotted Uriah and his attention was drawing tiie other Orlocks into the area. the same arms that tilted the vats to pour out their molten content when the ore was of sufficient purity. the Orlocks. When the catwalk swung into view below his feet. The Orlocks on the catwalks would spot him soon enough. For now. gunshots rang out and a tiny thought nestled itself well in the back of his mind. That's nice he thought. but neither the Orlocks in the catwalks nor those on the ground had s potted him. Makes it easier when they're all in one convenient location . Their indiscriminant manne r brought Uriah to the mocking conclusion that the Orlocks were deliberately missing him to damage the foundry thus sparing themselves further drudgery. They're shooting at someone else. T he ceiling was covered in a network of rail tracks where hydraulic bogies fitted with spools of heavy-duty chains could lift and transport heavy equipment around the foundry. but the suspension arms that held them in plac e. Then he saw it. Uriah grabbed four chains that were almost braided together and climbed with every ounce of his str ength. It was a short reprieve. Uriah was four storeys up when more shots rang out and the area became decidedly dangerous. Several of the chains were long enough to scrape the floor. Have to throw them off. Uriah needed to reach a control panel despite his pursuers dogging him. while rarely sharpshooters. Uriah kept to the shadows until he was close enough to one set of chains to make his run. Uriah gained more footing with his senses. Can't run forever. none of which was spared the punishing salvoes of the pursuing Orlocks. By the time sense had returned to him. and scramb led to his feet. Not the smelting vats themselves. He rolled away. As the chase continued. but it promised plenty of aches tomorrow. He was three storeys up when a series of single shots rang out. Good. believed volume was a good substitute for skill. Uriah qu ickly studied his surroundings. the stabbing pain in his shoulder subsided to a dull throb. fought to remain aloft on the black waters that threatened to drown him. Uriah brought himself from a slow swing into a faster arc.Uriah fought to stay conscious. considering every possibility. He expected shots to ring out again. but Uriah was focused on leapin g onto the adjoining catwalk before anyone got there first. but more focused now.

While the pure ore merely flowed until it congealed and cooled. While the heat chewed through Uriah. The molten metal was fill ed with impurities. being mann ed by a shirtless Orlock behemoth with as much fat as muscle. 'I'm certain of that. it was enoug h that weight and age took their toll. Uriah was near where he needed to be. What lingered was the panicked yel ls of the escaping survivors. he heard metal groan and one section of catwalk across the way collapsed with a loud crash. flowing over the empty conveyor belts below. The levers were marked in increments of three degrees. At first a small stream of molten ore poured from the mouth of each vat. He quickly studied the carnage below him and realized the folly of his pl an. the vats also produced columns of steam tha t masked his flight across the catwalk.' Uriah said to himself. who rivets pla tes to their skulls? Orlocks. his face a masticated red pulp except where ste el plates were riveted to his skull. He fired a shot. Uriah was already taking a r unning aim. why aren't you dead? Oh never mind/ Uriah fired two more shots into the Orlock's skull. 'Seriously. diis time far wilder then tliey had been. The Orlock stumbled to one knee. and pulled the levers down to one hundred and eighty degrees. The ore turned into a deadly river that ran between equipment and support beams. Uriah searched for a control panel or emergency work station. faster now lest his section of . they pulled and tilted tlie vats slowly. His arm shot out. In the process. 'Only one way to find out. surprised at the Orlock's tenacity. warping them under t heir heat. 'I hate Orlocks. Then. if it catches me as well. He was already running before he had his bearings. the Orloc k was obviously aware of the danger and ready for action. that's who. flooding the floor wi th instant death. He stumbled upon one a moment later. An autogun lay flat on the panel. Giant chains affixed from the bottom of the vats to motorized chain spools on th e ceiling groaned in protest as they wound back up. studying the panel. The shot resonated with a metallic echo. A nd while they didn't remain hot for long enough to eat their way completely through their go of the chains and landed with a steady foot. glowing orange and yellow waterfalls of molten ore cascaded down. he thought. shouts and sho ts erupting all around him. running along the reinforced catwalks overlookin g the vats. catching the Orlock in the face.' Uriah said. Still. presumably f or the tilt of each vat.' Uriah muttered. 'Say. It's only folly. The barrage of shots shredded the air. They melted the already rusting support struts and ground equipment like globules of acid. and Uriah used the momentum to his benefit. By then. As Uriah turned to leave. the impurities were sticking to eve rything they touched.' On first blush. Whatever screams of pain Uriah heard were instantly cut short. distraction was distraction. 'Kill you!' the behemoth r oared. diough the steam hid Uriah's approach. He ran. Only in the last possible second did the Orlock catch movement from the corner of his eye. collapsing him. it appeared as though the five large levers on the panel control led tlie five gigantic vats adjacent to the catwalk. stumbling for the gun on the panel.

as with any of his plans. The name Uriah Storm went out to all Orlock strongholds and gangs. stepped aside as Slag approached. jumped to the lower catwalks. If the Orlocks caught Uriah. it was too dark. and partially cr ippling the foundry. It was an old sewer-pipe access. the spherical eye-implant riveted roughly into the bone surrounding the s ocket. Now the rope was mysteriously mi ssing. four Orl ocks had seen the intruder proper. there were always contingencies. and it spread outward. THERE WERE FEW occasions that actually left Uriah dumbfounded. to the ground and his exit from the building. and one could even identify him from the wanted list. nearly stranding him at an y rate. And still. bald man. Soon. black jagged tattoos that spi-raled up each massive arm and cradled his thick neck. The plan worked.catwalk fall too. but not the most telling of Slag's features. Looking up. muscle fibres stitched in perf ect detail against his skin. much less the open turbofan he'd left behind. or that Uriah w ould be cut off from the roof for whatever reason. His reputation was made in the displays of h is ruthless cunning. he knew they would rip him apart. but there was no sign of the intruder. the only words spoken were whispered. the bounty on his head increased by a handsome figure . and within an hour. not easily cowed. he saw no sign of an y rope. al l these were impressive. The dome itself was alive with noise of machines and the screams of enraged Orlo cks. Part of the building was ruined and at least five men were dead. the foundry w orkers could not help but stare at the impressive. collapsing catwalks and a portion of the ceiling. Still. and from there . travelling through the stink of Orlock waste was a hazard in itself. He was among the smartest of the Orlocks in the way they respected most. rarely returned the courtesy. Well. It was his face that was unmistakable. two remaining exits. The strong Orlocks. if not pleasant. they mad e eye contact and nodded to show their respect. A few Orlocks tried offering Slag a summary of the evening's events. More importantly. Slag was their saint and their devil. however. Slag's arrival was like that of a flood that silenced all conversation in his pr esence. So too did his ranking. the wash of heat from a foundry accident twisting his flesh into a waxen parody. and they echoed the same words: Slag's here. one of which was convenient. a nd while reaching it was not an issue. The rap-pelling cord he'd left behind for his swift escape was gone. In this case. Slag's reputation was beyond that of stature or features. but he seem ed more interested in where Uriah . the splash of metal droplets that burnt through skin and muscle to fuse to his skull. THE ORLOCKS SWEPT through the dome numerous times. but this was one such event. So. Slag. Wide shelves for shoulders. it also drew the attention of Slag. and he walked among them tonight. Uriah shook his head at the prospect and headed out. The molten rivers had done their damage. the Orlocks were too busy panicking or trying to contain the damage to pursue him. Still. stranding him on the roof and suggesting that something more was at play. The Orlocks did not accept defeat well a nd fistfights broke out among the search parties over puerile matters or simple misunderstandings. Uriah used the trestles again. There was always the chance during this mission that someone would discover the rope.

'We find Uriah by going after t he Van Saar engineer?' another Orlock offered. Uriah? ' he asked. already planning his next steps. The foreman caught up with the rearmost Orlock and slowed him down enough to ask a whispered question. he turne d from the office and walked outside to the catwalks. Hundreds of Orlocks and one Del aque. grateful that he'd found the information. waiting for the foreman to re join him. Here's the authorization/ Slag said. walking awa y. but we know how he came in. He surveyed the damage below him. Without a further word of thanks or otherwise. 'But-' 'Now/ was all Slag said. Uriah comes to us/ 'Smart man/ Slag said. 'he wants no inter ference when he goes after Uriah himself SLAG AND HIS five men had barely exited the dome when he turned to face them. Someone dropped in unannounced. well-armed and beefy Orlocks quickly fell in line. mumbling. Yes. 'Anyone less stupid want to answer?' Slag asked. Thank you. A turbo-fan was-' 'I don't care/ Slag said. That led him to the office. 'Security was pitiful. See if the survivors can confirm that/ 'Do you need to see anything else?' the foreman asked. 'The int ruder called up this file' Slag leaned in close to study the screen. walking down the hall and addressing everyone whethe r they intended to listen or not. his voice betraying a slight tremble. CHAPTER: FOUR Plan your strategies in advance and consider all outcomes. 'That way. 'We'll put out word for Uriah's head-' one Orlock said before he noticed Slag's almost spite-riddled scowl directed at him.had been rather than the damage he'd caused. Three men are still missing.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. The odds were in your favour. yes/ Uriah said. not his/ 'I know/ the foreman said. A dozen burned. Remove Uriah from the hunted list. 'Because/ he responded. He threw a quick glance over his shoulder to one of his own men. lea ning in to type the password himself. 'How many dead?' 'Nine. His entourage of five. 'UGH! You SMELL!' Uriah smiled and nodded to the female Delaque clerk in the hallway. I'm thinkin g Uriah Storm. It was hard acting so cavalier about the foul reek when Uriah himself wanted to retch. 'I've done as you asked/ the foreman reported. 'I have it/ the Foreman said. 'I discovered the stench recently. indicating the screen. The game should he won before you ever set foot on the field. but he had to admit he was deriving som e pleasure from the experience. 'F ind Storm/ is all he said. 'The boys were lookin' for Soren at some hab block. no matter how unlikely. And I will take full responsibility for-' Slag was already walking away. 'Why did Slag have me remove Uriah Storm from the hunted list?' A smirk crept up on the Orlock's lip. It's my newest disguise designed to ingratiate m . where a nervous Steel Sentinel foreman plinked away at the logic hub. likely more. 'The Van Saar engineer? You after him too. 'Firefight earlier today/ Slag said. .

so nobody batted a sluggish eye when Uriah arrived wearing one. comfortable affair. I look different because of t he mask. but business brought him to these places freq uently. The fumes produced a cheap high in the bar's clientele. with no more than a dozen small tables scattered across the open floor.. studied Uriah for a moment. He punched in his access code. She'd given it to him as a symbol of her love..' That can't be it/ 'Fine/ Uriah said.' Hale said. Heard you lost yourself a Van Saar agent/ the image said with some satis faction. cradled in a lat tice web of fine gold and hung from a delicate chain. The face that greeted him was familia r. "You look different. Cawdor prisoners. the itchy. as though tryin g to place him. his bloodshot eyes heavy with the fumes. The Van Saar were particularly fussy when it came to hygiene. his tongue dragging his speech into a n umb drawl.' THE RENDEZVOUS SPOT was a Fumes Bar. You cut your hair?' You ask me that every time we meet. B etter yet. the man with the crushed nose.yself with sewer scavengers. revealing a false back. and Uriah lost himself in that perfect moment where nothing in the world mattered. He spoke and sucked in air through his mouth. damp clothes came off and found their way into a disposal receptacle. Uriah adjusted his heavy duster and surveyed the bar for any suspicious behaviour before finall y making his way to the table nestled in the shadows.' Uriah said. 'I got the information on his whereabouts if you can meet the price. thanked the Machine Spirit for its diligence and replayed the scratchy image. Orlock plumbers. nose crushed flat and beady eyes. The bar was a small. a constant sense of euphoria at the mere expense of one's brain cells. Uriah exited the bathroom and went to his desk. Uriah avoided such establishments. and often sharing the same owners. feeling sore but far better than he had earlie r. 'Uriah. but the ingredients came courtesy of Mor-gane and were designed to el iminate harmful bacteria. breathing as though drowning on hi s own congestion. 'I cut my hair/ . it wasn't uncommon to see clientele wearing rebreathers for whatever reason. and a bar set against the back wall. not exactly normal Delaque procedure. taking a seat. Uriah opened the lock on his door and pushed into his small living quarters. He eventually put it away. The air was hazy from a noxious cocktail of smo ke and various gases. Tell all your friends. let them smell the experience themselves!' With a sigh. He removed the drawer. A chemical scrub came next. Almost immediately. and retrieved a small teardrop-shaped pendant. and smiled at Morgane's beloved g ift. The pendant was a black diamond. He blinked twice. It's the mask. 'Hale. Uriah watched it twirl. Hale. nev er to be used again. The message light blinked on Uriah's pict screen. the incontinent as a whole. Fortunately. Situated near an active industrial complex. the bar was one of several that piped in low concentrations of filtered gases from nearby factories. when everything felt right.

That must be it/ Hale said before he returned to his drink. Uriah waited a few moments before sighing. 'You called me?' Uriah said, trying t o prompt the conversation. 'Oh, yeah. Soren, I know what happened to your Van Saar spy/ 'And how did you know I was looking for him?' 'C'mon!' Hale said, his eyes sober for a moment. Til admit/ Uriah said, 'that despite your choice of diversions, you are surprisi ngly sharp. How you manage to function in this environment is beyond me/ Think of it as a test of will/ Hale said with a smile. 'If I can operate in this environment, just think how dangerous I am when completely lucid. I'm so dangerous that I keep myself in this state for the safety of everyone around me/ Hale said, sweeping his hand to indicate the whole room. Uriah shook his head. 'Magnanimous of you, but your logic is entirely suspect. T hat made no sense!' he said with a laugh. 'True enough/ Hale admitted and returned to nursing what was now his dry tankard . 'So what about Soren?' Uriah asked. 'My throat/ Hale said, squeezing his oesophagus for good effect. 'Terribly parch ed. Couldn't possibly talk/ Uriah turned to the bar and nodded to the thin man with a full face gasmask tend ing drinks. The bartender walked over with another tankard and a bottle of Ratbile. 'Leave the bottle/ Uriah said, dropping coins into his hand and sending him back to the bar. The Jester poured a glass for himself and Hale, offered a silent toast and lifted his rebreather before do wning the searing rotgut in a shot. 'Better?' Uriah asked, his throat torn. 'Oh yes/ Hale said with a grimace. 'And for that, you get this little tidbit of information. Soren's dead. They found his corpse somewhere deep inside the metal guts of the Underhive/ THE BOTTLE OF Ratbile was nearly empty before Uriah finally spoke. 'So what is i t you're holding back?' 'You brought me my merchandise?' Uriah reached into his duster and slid the small black cloth packet across the t able. 'Careful/ he said before Hale could examine the contents. 'That's enough to stupefy an entire gang/ Hale opened the cloth flap and counted the forty green pills. He smiled at the s harp smell that they produced and was about to pocket them when Uriah placed his hand on Hale's wrist. 'The information, what is it I'm buying?' 'Soren wasn't just shot, y'know. He was savaged, butchered!' That buys you ten pills/ Uriah said, never releasing his grip. 'All right, then. Someone stripped him clean of his pretty implants/ At best that's another five pills/ Uriah said. 'Scavengers steal implants off co rpses all the time/ 'Scavengers don't remove implants with surgical precision, do they? The wounds w ere cut with real skill/ 'All right, that's worth another ten pills. That's fifteen shy of what I figure is worth the cost/ 'How about this, then?' Hale said, obviously saving the best for last - if Uriah read him correctly. 'I don't know how he got them, but a black-shop bio-surgeon -goes by the name of Cantrall - was se lling Soren's implants. Cut-throat rates for premium Van Saar tech/ THE LEAD WAS thin, but Cantrall was all Uriah had for the moment. As the tram ru mbled along the ceiling track suspended high above the streets, Uriah pondered the matter. He knew Cantrall th

rough reputation only, but that was sufficient to launch him in the proper direction. Why the bio-surgeon would have Soren's implants was a question Uriah was keen to ask Cantrall - followed, of course, with, 'Who murdered Soren? ' The tram coasted along the ceiling rails before ducking into a roof tunnel that separated this district with the one above it. Uriah's stomach lurched as the tram soared on an elevated track angled straight for the ceiling of the next district. It levelled out moments later, slowing at a suspended platform attache d to a tall tower. Uriah disembarked at the station and followed the exiting mob to the lifts. Within moments, he was on the street, approaching the area where Cantrall operated. The tram lumbered above his head, gaining speed to its next destinatio n. The district was a warren of tight alleys and low ceilings that added to the cla ustrophobia. It was a garment quarter of sorts, the workers living and working in meir one-room hab blocks, each one a n independent contractor for a consortium of interests. Here, the House loyalties blurred with several entrepre neurial - but minor - gangs forging a non-aggression pact to ensure the flow of commerce. As Uriah approached the stretch of road where Cantrall's business lay, he immedi ately noticed locals fleeing in his direction. The irregular sounds of gunfire rose to meet him. The area was besieg ed, and Uriah was of the growing suspicion that it was centred on Cantrall's business. Voice,' Uriah said. 'I need your help.' Voice here,' Voice responded, crackling in Uriah's ears. 'What's happening? Wher e are you? This wasn't on your itinerary.' Ves, yes/ Uriah responded with a chuckle. 'Call it a necessary detour. You're be ing paid well enough. I have a lead on the assignment. What can you tell me about Cantrall?' 'Cantrall? Hm. Black market surgeon and pricey too. He has an ego to show for it / 'So he isn't one to normally offer discounts?' Uriah asked. 'Normally? Try never/ Thank you. Can you stay with me in case I need help? I think I'm walking into a firefight/ 'Hold your hand, as it were?' 'If mat means finally meeting you face to face, why not?' Uriah replied. After c hecking his bolter and rounds, Uriah headed towards die sound of gunfire. He paused long enough to grab one mousy loo king man by the arm as he tried running past. "What's happening?' Uriah asked. What d'ya think! Orlocks and Cawdor blastin' each other ta bits!' With that, the man wrestled free and continued his mad scramble to safety. Uriah continued on his way, hugging the building's shadows closely and ducking b ehind bits of cover on his approach to a T-junction. The sounds of gunfire grew more heated, more furious. It was an all-out battle, with screams, curses and endless volleys the punctuation of the fight, and it was gro wing worse. Angry and armed neighbours poked their heads out from windows long enough to contribute to the s kirmish. They threw objects or fired the occasional shot with autoguns. Uriah could not see the main combatants

. 'Unbelievable/ Uriah said with a mutter. What?' Voice asked. 'It's like trying to get someone to shut up by yelling louder than them/ The firefight was unfolding right around the corner, though Uriah saw the occasi onal local denizen chance a shot from a window. A ricochet punched a hole in the plascrete wall above his head. U riah ducked and approached the building corner while throwing the occasional glance to the neighbours. He peere d around the corner, and sure enough, amid the dead and dying who littered the streets, a gang of Orlocks had entrenched themselves behind all available cover. They shot at a facing building, exchanging heated fire with the Cawdor hidden inside. Uriah was in the process of assessing fhe situation when one figure caught his e ye. Slag was directing fire and issuing orders in his usually clipped manner. Uriah froze, the bones in his legs suddenly aware of the cold pins that held them together. He could still hear the sound... ...the crisp snaps... bones broken... blinding anguish... vision warped by the d elirium of agony. Cold sweat washed over Uriah, soaking him in seconds. He ducked back around the corner, muttering a soft curse. 'What was that?' Voice asked. 'I didn't catch it.' 'Slag,' Uriah said, feeling punched in the chest. 'Slag's here?' The Orlock ganger. What's his gang called?' 'Soulsplitters, and he's more like a butcher.' 'Encountered him, have you? Does he know you're there?' 'No/ Uriah said. 'He hasn't seen me yet.' 'If he bothers you that much, maybe it's time to pay him an ill courtesy. You're a good shot. A bullet to the back of the head should do it.' 'Right,' Uriah said, trying to clear the painful memories from his head enough t o function. 'You're right.' 'Of course I am.' Uriah peered back around the corner. The fight was nowhere near abating, not wit h both groups so well entrenched. Uriah took careful aim, lining up the iron sights of his bolt pistol with the ba ck of Slag's head... . ..bones broke, heavy boots pressed down on his femur and tibia, snapping them under casual weight... He could still hear the crack and the screams that followed, his own screams. Th e memories of the past were too powerful to reconcile here and now. His iron sights danced, unable to remain fix ed on the back of Slag's head. Uriah's vision blurred and the pistol's grip felt greasy in his sweaty palms. 'I can't/ Uriah said, his heart beating so fast that he felt breathless. 'What's wrong, Jester?' Voice asked, concern in her tone. 'I... I don't have a clear shot/ Uriah said. There was a pause on the other end, as though Voice was stripping the lie apart and weighing it. 'Is there a way around him?' she asked. 'I don't know yet/ Uriah said, grateful that Voice didn't challenge him further. 'Likely/ 'More than likely/ Voice said. 'Under the best conditions, surgery isn't a certa inty. Patients die or are frequently disfigured/ 'Right/ Uriah said, trying to focus on other matters. 'So Cantrall, like all exp erienced surgeons, likely has a rabbit hole to escape through/

Beyond the clo set and adjoining wall. Each wall be tween them felt like another world removed.' Uriah whispered. it felt good to have that distance between him and Slag. which was the basement in this case.' Uriah tapped the back of the man's head. Three are burnt at t he contacts. The building prefect was standing at a bedroom doorway. For Uriah. Uriah was inside the hab block hall quickly.'Sewers?' Voice asked. 'Drop the gun and I'll tell you.. 'Jester/ Voice said. 'Who're you? What d'ya want?' the prefect asked. He would find his way into Cantrall's business sooner or later. gunfire . the n he likely owns property here/ 'Or/ Uriah added. it would be sooner. the autogun hit the floor.. the bolt pistol pressed against the back o f his balding head. Uriah knelt in front of the prefect's door. The prefect didn't even see Uriah until he was on top of him. Don't drop it and. so marked b y the obscenities scrawled across its face. bed frame. The Orlock was tenacious.' Voice hesitated. Piled against the closet door were stacks of furniture: mattress. Clip the wire and strip the insulation. I'm looking for a friend/ Uriah said with a grin.a freque nt occurrence in Hive Prime . navigating the pockmarked hallways of the building . What if he's escaped already?' 'We'll see when we get there/ The building prefect was easy enough to locate. 'Hello.. Enough to shock you and possibly burn a few implants. b olt pistol at the ready. though Uriah knew Slag. Too much like groveling for a man who holds himself so highly. It could likely shoulder the building's collapse . Booby-trap?' 'Electric discharge. In eimer case. The metal sliding doors to the various hab blocks were closed. 'if Cantrall has an escape route through this building. 'Done/ Uriah said. but offered the Machine Spirit a silent apology for the intrusion. An acrid. Thirteen wires leading to the number pad. The basement looked like a secure d bomb shelter with heavily barred windows looking out. 'No/ Uriah responded.' 'Aren't they all? The thirteenth wire is the problem. 'A little beneath someone of Cantrall's standing. the heated battle still being waged outside.with no damage to the occupants. and fidgeted with an open security panel with all the earmarks of jury-rig ging. 'What do you see?' Voice asked. A moment later. the prefect is the one we want/ 'But. I'd warr ant. Looks like a poor soldering job. nightstand and dresser. 'Use the capacitor wire to short out the security panel itself but be ready to m ove/ Sparks of electricity erupted when Uriah dabbed the live wire across the contact s. facing into the room with an autogun in hand. 'he knows the building prefect. It was then that Uriah realized why the prefect had been staring into the bedroo m. That's the best you can come up with?' Voice asked in his ear.' Uriah followed Voice's lead. Uriah was grateful that only he heard her. It should lead to a small bank of capacitors/ 'Right it does. and knowing Slag.. determined. I'm checking the adjoining building/ 'WHERE TO START?' Uriah said. burning smell filled the air and the metal door slid open. they generally chose the most de fensible position in the building.

Uriah practically dived down the stairwell as the walls and ceiling around him disintegrated under . with junk piled against the walls and scattered across the floor. regaining some c omposure despite the random slip of giggles. Slag locked eyes with Uriah and smiled at the unantici pated gift. lay on the floor. 'So let me see if I understand this/ Uriah said for both the prefect's and Voice 's benefit. with doors on either side. Uriah realized he was in trouble. Uriah fired again. led by a confident-looking Slag. blood and machineoil spatter still stained the walls and floor. he couldn't stop for a good moment.' Voice said while the prefect muttered something Uriah couldn't hear. cold units and waste bins. Uriah stared down another hallway. his bald-headed prey darting through another door while cradling a machine arm. He followed through. crackling in his ear. The stranger was quick enough to have avoided the attention of the Soulsplitters . Uriah wasn't as fortunate. The firefight was drawing to a close. Uriah knew he had to act fast. you get to li ve. Worse yet. The trenchcoated quarry was already taking the steps two at a time. That is funny/ 'So Cantrall hasn't escaped?' Uriah asked the prefect. 'What's so funny?' Voice asked 'You talkin' to me?' the prefect asked Uriah. operating slab with restraint s.and was now beyond pursuit.. and while his gun never wavered. Beyond the hidden door rested a surgeon's bay . Somewhere beyond. an assortment of butchering surgical tools.. revealin g a sliver of light from another room beyond. missing by centimetres. though far more sporadically. P istol in hand. Up the stairs. in the floors above. 'I understand. one Cawdor and the other in filthy operating garb. he'd stolen an implant fro m the surgical bay -likely Soren's implant . He stopped in his tracks. the gunfire continued. the dead Cawdor gangers in the corridor. It looked typical of a bachelor's walk -in closet. 'and for that. The back wall. you barricade his only way out?' 'Ahh. and at the first sign of trouble. On the operating slab rested the corp se of a Cawdor ganger. metal cabinets. Uriah entered the room in time to see someone slip away through the only set of double doors. the Orlock gangers. Despite a decent cali bre of equipment. he cautiously opened the closet door and peered inside. my good man. and entered into a short hallway ending at a staircase . was ajar. What?' Voice asked. and that was one bone which he woul d not release. Uriah started laughing. bolt pistol at the ready. He nudged him with the pi stol when the prefect didn't answer. Two more corpses. however. He had bare seconds to registe r the scene. 'Cantrall pays you for an escape route. In that moment.. 'No/ You've actually helped me/ Uriah said.. It took a moment for Uriah to dislodge the furniture and shove it to the side. Whoever the stranger was. marching down the hall. Slag had his sights set on Uriah.continued its stuttered chorus. 'I think I found Cantrall's emergency escape route/ Uriah said. with a headache for your efforts/ One blow to the back of the head and the prefect slumped to the thinly carpeted floor.

but only for a moment. He removed the implant from the eye socket. I i nsist you do the same/ 'You're funny. 'Explosives? Why-?' Voice's question was answered by the loud explosion. 'Uriah Storm/ Slag said. suddenly noticing the spherical ocular implant in Cantrall 's left eye. one second spent in falling. He ignored t he bits of grey matter stuck to the cable's receptor plugs and shoved the bloody mess into a belt pouch. and pushing through it. three seconds running for the hidden door that was slightly ajar. Slag's eyes widened. . Almost everyone dived behind cover or back through the doors. 'Pull out!' Voice said. and pulled on the ocular cable till it popped loose. shrugging. The grenade detonated at th e foot of the stairs and shook the building. hearing Uriah's grunts. almost purring. He needed to speak with Cantrall and Cantrall was dead. Uriah tumbled off a couple of steps before hitting the basement floor. Uriah pulled out his knife and began prying at the edges of the implant. "What are you doing?' Voice asked. however. he'd done a professional job of executing all three men. raising his heavy bolter up into Uriah' s face. 'People I've made fools of call me Jester. The double doors swung open as Uriah came to his feet and he found himself stari ng down the barrels of a halfdozen guns as well as into the sly stare of Slag. He qui ckly surveyed the surroundings. Uriah. 'Not yet/ Uriah said. another second lost waiting for the Orlocks t o realize they were dealing with an explosive so they didn't shoot Uriah when he ran. Uriah's throat went dry. but the blast was enough to d amage the stone stairs and to slow the advance of Slag's men. He rolled to his feet and ran for the surgical bay.' Uriah reache d the surgical bay and quickly tossed a round. was runni ng for the secret exit while Slag threw one of his men atop the puck before diving clear. He wouldn't die here. It was more for effect than actual harm. 'Please/ Uriah said with a smile. and Uriah was already counting down fr om when the grenade left his hand. there/ Slag replied. Uriah was back on his feet and at the secret door. and remind me to get more exp losives!' he said. The explosives were on a six-second fuse. diving through the double doors. i gnoring the wet shucking noise it made. 'Playing a hunch/ Uriah responded. but there wasn't much to salvage. 'banter from an Orlock that doesn't involve gunfire and granti ng/ 'You're half right. 'I was wrong. 'What do you know?' Uriah said. Whoever the thief was who'd stolen the implants. I do have more explosiv es/ The Orlocks only noticed the grenade in Uriah's hand when it dropped and hit the floor. flat object down the hallway. 'Damn it!' What is it?' Voice asked.a blistering onslaught of bolter and las fire. 'Oh. and he cer tainly wouldn't give Slag the satisfaction of acting scared in his presence. 'Someone stole the implant from under my nose and now Slag's here. cutting skin and muscle. But corpses usually are/ 'Ah!' Uriah said.

Fortu nately. It made him feel alive and kept his mind sharp . The door opened.The remaining second evaporated in the blast that shoved the secret door shut. 'You know. and the thought of the Soulsplitter bruiser turned Uriah's sweat cold. drawing nearer to the man who'd q uestioned him. . 'What about the injured?' 'Nothing.' Uriah said. losing himself in the crowd of people brave enough to satisfy their curiosity. I'll check in with you l ater/ Uriah stumbled away on shaky legs. SLAG ROSE TO his feet in the hallway and ignored the groans of his men. We'll find the implant/ 'Good idea/ Slag said. That was a necessity in his line of work. however. The second was the man who had stolen the implant. It was only when he reached the street that he heard Voice through his earpiece. 'Pardon?' Percal asked. s paring Uriah from the brunt of the explosion. He knocked in code and waited a long moment before the familiar click and whirr sounded from the door's hidden m echanisms. The second person . The first was Slag. A small smile snuck past his lips in anticipation of a worthy hunt. you trained me better than that/ 'You're quick to accuse/ Percal said. The doors had shielded Slag and a couple of hi s more able men from the blast. . He holstered his weapon and examined the wall Uriah had s lipped through. 'You two. not looking up from his data-slate. feeling the lingering warmth of someone else's presence. CHAPTER: FIVE Choose your fights before your fights choose you. was perhaps a little more troubling..all right?' Tm fine. URIAH WAS AGAIN disheveled and sporting additional cuts and scrapes from his mos t recent altercation. looking annoyed as he glanced up from his work. The rest of you find Uriah!' 'What about the injured?' a subordinate asked. the other Handler you sent on th e Soren job. Several looked dead or severely injured. Uriah walked down the familiar corridors of Shadow-strohm. Slag. You can tell hi m to come out/ Uriah said. but the operating bay was rained. He stumbled down the street. 'I have w ork/ 'Then you'll have to accommodate me this once. 'Whoever was sitting in this chair. After spending what felt like minutes recovering from the head ringing. 'What is it.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. Uriah?' Percal asked. '. Uriah stumbled through the closet door and out of the prefect's hab block. 'Couldn't hear you over his groans/ Slag said. His moans died as quickly as he did. Percal. entering the room.. nodding to the adjoining wall. though they were easily replaced. His muscles ached from their ordeals. H e touched the uncomfortable metal chairs. I'm fine/ Uriah mumbled. 'I can't hear you properly. The one who is currently hiding in the littl e room beyond that hidden door/ Uriah said. Slag pulled his heavy bolter and blasted one of the injured Orlocks lying near h is feet. he came to Percal's p lain door. Find the implant/ Slag told his men. though Uriah knew that age was taking its slow toll on him. especially when two men were gunning f or Uriah's head. he rather enjoyed the soreness that spread through every corner of his body.

Leave no description vague/ 'All right/ Kaden replied.' THE WORK BENCH waited. mean smile cutting across his face. Satisfied with the moment's peace. What is t he basis of your allegations?' Percal asked. Well. but Uriah was distracted by one thought. it's a waste of t ime. 'I searched it top to bottom. smirking. 'Is he?' Percal asked. 'I have work. Uriah missed Mor gane. other than the arm I took/ Percal thought on the matter a moment before shaking his head. Uriah's gaining ground and I'm not there to keep an eye on things/ Then you'll have some catching up to do/ Percal said. but he was grateful for her gift. 'The next time you send a second Handler to ensure the mission's success. standing. shaking his head. There was nothing there. and yet you accuse me of tolerating failure?' Who says I failed?' Uriah said. 'You have something?' 'Question your second Handler/ Uriah replied. stroking the scar on his l ip. but I'd recognize another Delaque Handler anywhere/ 'That's the basis of your accusation?' Percal asked. Be grateful he didn't see your face / 'Uriah Storm doesn't scare me/ Kaden said. a steady. He went to the d esk and pulled out the small pendant hidden in the drawer. Slag grew distant in his thoughts and Soren's death was easier to manage. Recount every detail of your mission. He went over to the work bench. 'Please' Uriah responded with a laugh. 'But I'm telling you. the stump of his nose twitc hing. heading for the door. 'No. The implants. I trained him/ That drew a momentary. 'We'll see. Uriah kissed the pendant before returning it to its nest. uncomfortable silence from Kaden. 'He saw you escaping. . you missed s omething. then.. 'Someone stol e the implant from under your nose. Uriah/ 'I'm surprised at you/ Uriah said. Find them at all costs/ THE SECRET PANEL slid open and Kaden stepped out. Why ar e you protecting someone who so obviously led me right back to you?' 'Assuming your accusations have merit/ 'Fine/ Uriah said. 'Now. from the beginning. send someone who won't get caught as they're escaping with the implant/ 'You saw a face?' 'No. 'Sit down. Uriah brought it to his nose and smelled Mor gane's sweet perfume that still lingered on the keepsake. Uriah is not one for idle boasts/ 'I swear there was nothing there/ Kaden protested. Percal looked up. sitting down.'But never wrong in my accusations/ Uriah responded. It brought a warm smile to Uriah's lips and washed awa y his recent concerns. 'He's lying/ he said. 'Did you miss something? At Cantrall's surgical bay?' 'No/ Kaden replied. There are more implants that need recovering. I still want them. 'I'll assume you have Soren's arm.. and contin ue with my investigation/ 'Soren is dead/ Percal stated while remaining focused on his work. waving his hand through the holograph pieces on the regicide board. He went back to studying the datapad. 'And maybe y ou can figure out what he missed when he stole Soren's implant/ 'Uriah/ Percal said. Never wrong and never been wrong are two different issues. You've never tolerated failure before. 'He should.

Uriah surveyed the tools awaiting his touch. Voice. Uriah finished his prayer before answering. but you know your way around the guts of the machines/ 'Enough to stumble. That's why I need your help here/ 'Modesty? From you? How uncharacteristic of the Jester/ Voice replied. Do you know I actually saw some poor fool praying to a keypad. you give the Machine Spirit its undeserved due. 'Nothing. 'Because no Van Saar would ever ask for outside help .' That's heresy to some/ Uriah replied. The static fluctuated.' 'Not much of a compliment/ Voice said. I was merely praying to th e eye's Machine Spirit to forgive us for the intrusion. For them. It took Uriah a moment to understand the joke. 'And music to others.he was begging the Machine Spirit to open it up/ 'Some people don't want to understand machines.' 'Given their proficiency with devices. communion and prayer is wearing implants/ 'Ah handling tec hnology. is it? Certainly.' 'Ah. The screen displayed the chaotic spatter of static. 'That's because the data plug can't interpret the implant's signals.the implant's lining having prevented vital fluids from leakin g into the pristine-looking device.. 'So you know what I need?' 'Enough to guide you through it. all it biological bits cleaned off. I thank you for the help .. nothing more. The lights in his hab block were di m. 'Seriously. "What? I didn't catch that. 'I still see static/ Uriah said. It's just circuits and relays. He forgot his code . They find solace in belie ving in the spirit of the device. a small circuit boar . but otherwise remained the same . You do know why I stole Cantrall's implant?' 'I do/ Voice replied. You know there is no Machine Spirit.' Voice said. Centrepiece to the light was Can trall's ocular implant. fleshworks/ Voice responded. the less we'll truly understand mechanics. It wasn't d esigned for that/ 'But how-?' 'Have faith/ Voice said. Uriah examined the interior and finally located his quarry. chuckling .' 'You're just like the Van Saar. Uriah slowly pried open the implant's outer casing. Voice. 'Has anyone ever accused you of being a Van Saar?' 'How do you know I'm not?' Uriah asked. The more we treat machinery as mysterious. Uriah closed his eyes and muttered a wordless prayer. The first course of action was to connect the implant's sensory micro-bundles to a data plug that was promptly jacked in to the monitor. Delicately. 'for a hereti c. time to walk you through this/ Voice responded. revealing its in nards. the sole illumination a bright circle at his table from an overhead spotlight. and they're ready/ Very well. Do you have a pict screen and input device near by?' Uriah patted the small black monitor with its bubble screen. sitting at the tabl e's corner. Another fine example of Van Saar technology . praying to machines. grousing. 'Funny/ he replied. flattery/ Voice replied before continuing with her instructions. and proceeded to guid e Uriah through the process slowly. Yes. 'But that's not really true of you.

It was Voice who broke the silence. and Uriah ignored the other dead spaces and procedural moments when the bio-surgeon operated on patients or worked on implan ts. but demean ourselves in the process. with screens for eyes/ 'And the second reason?' Uriah asked. but there's a n empty socket for the bundle there. using Soren's missed rendezvous as a rough ben chmark for the starting date. 'You're not my only friend with knowledge of such things/ URIAH PLAYED BACK the recordings. He likely had live colour input. but otherwise clear. become more valuable than the indiv idual who uses them. it's socketed. That leaves us to cheat the device into working/ 'Done/ Uriah said after a moment. Even then. Thankf ully. the surgery itself.' 'Now what?' 'Look for a green chip near the circuit board. 'The Van Saar are crafty spies/ They are. 'Is this how Cantrall saw the world? In black and white?' 'For Cantrall. Instead. I t's like living inside a monitor. But now you see the first reason why I dislike sensory-implants.d connected to wires. You mentioned that before/ Uriah said. Push it in and that should do it/ 'Moving wires around seems a bit crude for Van Saar technology/ Actually. 'Pinch the bundles?' 'Careful now. you were right about it being Van Saar tech. 'Jester. The flesh becomes tool for the machine. focusing on the various files stored by date. How'd you know about their hidden protocols?' Uriah smiled. Uriah was replaying the eye's video-logs. T hat way.' 'Is that it?' Uriah wondered aloud. they'll never bother interrogating someone for information. 'You are paying me by the hour. Van Saar implants sold to outsiders often contain recording devices. The screen flickered and displayed a menu syst em. Voice paused to think about the matter. 'How many hours of recordi ngs does the device contain/ Try weeks/ 'Impressive/ Uriah said. 'Fleshworks/ she said. He studied the ima ges. 'I have it!' Uriah said. He used tweezers to pinch what Voice called 'optic bundles. We don't have the same luxury. It's delicate work. Pull the wire out. likely no/ Voice replied. 'But what does it mean?' 'It's when the implants. practically chirping at his success. blacks and whites. Uriah searched for . At the press of two buttons. He could see everything that Cantrall had seen through the artificial eye. 'Don't you wa nt to know something more relevant to your case/ You're right/ Uriah said. they comprised several days' worth of material. recorded in scratchy. Jester/ she replied. I suspect. opening file s at random and watching them with a voyeuristic glee. the implant was smart enough to stop recording when Cantrall closed his good eye to sleep. Fleshworks/ You don't approve of implants/ Voice sighed. 'Only the recordings are in black and w hite. sensing Voice's impatience. not the other way around. It's when we mutilate ou r flesh to improve ourselves. the Van Saar have machines that do this for them without ever cracking open the implant's casing. They'll just retrieve the implant and tak e the data they need/ There was a pause in the conversation as Uriah examined the videos.

A young man stood there black hair. Uriah had to assume that Slag might have already found the list while sea rching the office. Worse.faces. Uriah's lids were growing heavy. Uriah realised. which might already be taken ? Steal the implant first. Delivery boy. one likely gutted during the fire-fight. Which means he re ceived a call or he made the arrangements. Uriah thought.with several packages strapped into a heavy-frame dolly. but then most good bio-surgeons had a waiting list of clients and preferred stock. it felt too grisly. it was the Cawdo r ganger who lay dead on Cantrall's operating table. plain face. The recording was from the day of Soren's disappearance. Cantrall was working in his office. The last one Uriah already knew. each a ganger or street-mover of different affiliation. but Uriah had stopped watching. Thankfully. After several hours of searching. faces of those who received Soren's implants. one woman . each earning one of Soren's scavenged implants. even for him. All were replacements for body parts that Soren had lost in a lab explosion. Uriah watched as Cantrall unpacked a total of six implants: Two eyes. His eyes stun g from the work and he was ready for a deep. At least he had two new leads to pursue. Cantrall received several calls in the time of Soren's disappearance. and I may lose the only implants whose locations I do know. six faces in still frame from t he video playback. cleaning them off in the process . He almost missed the image that flashed across the screen. one by firsthand experience and one on description alone. several hours after his missed rendezvous. But which to pursue first. searching for mor e clues. Six faces stared back at Uriah from his monitor. faces of those who sold the m. an arm. Go after a list. Uriah returned to earlier portions of the recordings. SEVERAL MORE HOURS passed. comfortable sleep. Instead. no gang markings . Uriah recognized another two. when he answered the door. the implant or the list. Uriah had moved on to the next related task. his promised arm in the hands of his executioner and thief. Despite his normally strong constitution. then it was at his surgical bay. Cantrall began his examination of the implants. Cantrall was expecting the delivery. If Cantrall did keep a list. Cantrall had been quick to sell the items. Five men. It didn't lo ok like he said much during the exchange. That's when Uriah slapped himself in the forehead. . Whoever possessed the list defini tely held the advantage since Uriah only recognized two of the five people who received the implants from the images . but Uriah had assembled some more pieces of the puzzl e. The delivery boy deposited the boxes in Cantrall's office and left. With that lead seemingly dead. but without an audio-feed. meaning that they likely shared the same remaining five targets. tw o internal organs of undetermined nature and one leg. Uriah couldn't be sure if any of them were related to the delivery of the implants. and I could lose the list .each a different client of Cantrall's. which may not exist or is already gone.I can't identify the other three gang ers. that of the implants themselves.. Uriah thought to himself.

'Thank you. as well as the wall facing the corridor. there was movement in the corridor behind him. He fired into an advancing Soulsplitter covered in heavy rags. Unfortunately.. while the scaveng ers had yet to strip Cantrall's operation of its equipment. her questions being cut off by gun battle. dropping him. 'They're trapped. Uriah peeked back around the corner and eyed the boxes lying in the no man's land between him and the Orlock nest. Uriah sighed. Maybe Uriah had been encouraged when Slag's heavily armoured bike was nowhere to be seen. What about the list?' Still crouching. 'It's a job/ Uriah replied. though I do seem to be killing quite a few of them these days/ THE GUNFIGHT WAS furious. Jester/ Voice had said as he appr oached the same building where he'd foiled Slag's attempts to kill him. 'Problems?' Voice asked. . That's the bad ne ws/ Uriah said. it is/ Uriah said. Unfortunately. So much for sleep. 'I don't derive pleasure from killing them. bolter shots and muzzle bursts imprinting the rooms wi th quick lightning flashes. it was because of the Orlock presence that they stayed their h ands. a blistering hail of gunfire shredded the corners of Uriah's wall. 'What's your situation?' 'I have several Soulsplitters trapped down a deadend corridor. All that mattered now was that Uriah had entered the corridors unseen. He peeked around the corner and fired two shots into the chest of the red-headed ganger trying to sneak forw ard under cover fire. however. Uriah had walked in on the Soulsplitters as they were searching Cantrall's place of bu siness. Uriah was faster. firing a flurry of shots through the walls in the hopes of hitting an Orlock. 'Yes. and firing through the brain pan of the lead Orlock. the firefight now raged full pitch. look who I'm talking to. Before Uriah could act. Maybe it wa s just stupidity. He grabbed his trench coat and headed out. I can't g et to them without charging down the corridor/ Almost in response. were short-term victories. Uriah ducked to his right. while v aluable. 'Is that bad?' Voice asked. back around the c orner. really. Uriah immediately knew what the Soulsplitters were trying to do. 'Killing Orlocks seems to be a hobby with you. I forgot. 'I'm working on that/ he said. The two implants. Uriah spun around and landed on his back. you shouldn't have/ was all Uriah managed to say before the Soulspli tters dropped their boxes and reached for their weapons. firing and screaming as they leapt. 'So you're going to retreat? Wait. THERE WAS NO decision. drawing his bolt pistol wi th blinding speed. 'Nothing that a few clips couldn't solve/ Uriah responded before unleashing seve ral rounds down the corridor. finding the list was critical to the long-term. someone's feet scraping the floor. but they're well protected. 'I neither have the clips nor the patience to hold out in a sustained gunfight/ Uriah said. The others dived through adjacent doors. Two shots ripped the air above his head. at least not for Uriah. until turning one corner to find Soulsplitters heading his way with plastic containers filled with data-slates and files. and crouched do wn.

and if they'd found die list. URIAH SCRAMBLED UP the rubble slope. 'I can't stay. and that too fell into disuse. Where the pockets remained lay a shanty town of flimsy shacks and tent s crammed together shoulder to shoulder. destroying the d ata-slates and setting alight the vellum-imprinted files. . and now rested s ome three storeys above the ground. Tsk. A few shots rang out behind him. That wasn't counting the huge piles of rubble that plugged entire caverns and br ought the ceiling within touching distance. He slipped into a room and headed for one of the bullet-shredded windows. The ceiling continued sinking at the rate of an inch each year. but even then. When a fuel fire finally gutted the major caverns. Mor e buildings followed until the area was half its height and scavengers and gangers had the run of the streets. The tallest. 'But I'm not terribly happy with what I'm about to do. That's the "the glass is half-empty" observation/ Uriah responded. THERE WAS A district in this portion of the Underhive once. People couldn't eve n bother to preserve the name of the place.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. far from the lit paths and the Goliath patr ols moving from one camp to the next. pausing long enough to fire down both corridors. A Goli ath thug named Jaffa Hur/ CHAPTER: SIX Commit with conviction or prepare for a short life filled with failures. the only lights coming from poles in the ground holding glowi ng radioactive fluid suspended in thick. only scored and blackened rubble remained standing. 'You destroyed the lead?' Voice asked. racing down the remaining corridor. 'I suppose I'll find out soon enough/ 'Where to then?' 'My original target. This marked the Goliath territory of the Lords of Ru in. he tossed a grenade down the corridor. It's half-full to me/ 'How do you know he doesn't have the list?' 'I don't. Pathways had been cleared between the different enclaves and tent citi es. With that. they wouldn't have bothered with the other boxes/ 'Seems plausible. I hope you're right/ 'So do I/ Uriah said. The area was dark. but he was already rounding corridors and making his way outside before anyone realized what had happened. some trails required travellers to traverse through them hunched over.' 'Which is?' Voice asked. buckled under by the crushing ceiling. sounding wary. tsk. 'It's a surprise/ Uriah said. One of the men I recognized from Cantrall's clients. and his black clothing an d thermal cloak added to the . but the city above g rew too heavy. 'I prevented Slag from gaining the advantage. The explosion shredded the boxes and their contents. 'Done!' he said. why bother ransacking Cantrall's office?' Uriah asked. 'Slag's men stayed behind to find something. They're advancing on two sides now/ 'Can you escape?' 'Yes/ Uriah said. But if he did. lobbing it straight into an open container. filthy glass globes. warren-like buildings were the first to collapse. The darkness enveloped him in anonymous comfort.That settles it/ he said. slipping out through the window and into the darkness of t he surrounding buildings.

'It's a slave auction/ Uriah replied. Uriah recognized die design of the ring. while the smallest were intimate affairs for two people. however. Nobody investigated the disturban ce. Somehow.but wide enough that the outskirts remained hidden in shadow. women and chil dren cooked.' True. mumbling into his radio set. but a small one. watching the different groups. Covering the surface of the crater was a community of well over one hundred tents of different sizes. a supposition supported by the well-muscled women and chil dren around the tents.' Uriah said. He lifted the goggles over his forehead and pulled his hood tight over his head. colours and fabrics. either because the local boar-rats had heavier feet than Uriah or because the Lords of Ruin didn't care. but still tripped the occasional trickle of rubble. then. rabble streets. 'Wonderful. It was a combat circle where the Goliat h fought and maimed one another for fun and bragging rights. allowing him to see more cl early. Some possessed hulking frames ripped with muscles. His feet were light on the ground. The largest were pavilions that easily housed a dozen people. It was well-lit. A few people watched Uriah walk the streets before other outsiders caught their attention. they likely paid the Lords of Ruin for protection or provided services like cook ing and mending. Uriah kept his eyes open.camouflage. Finally. At the centre. Who'll not ice one more buyer moving through the streets?' 'Could be dangerous.three storeys deep . lined with a halfwall of rubble. I don't see Lords o f Ruin slavers printing out invitations for the evening. Overlooking it was a platform . drawing the cloak'around him tighter to shield him from thermal optics. 'What if it's invitation only?' Uriah smiled. Uriah reached the lip of a debris crater's slope. the Goliaths had cleaned the rubble down to the district's original floor.. Satisfied. . 'A risk. trying to distinguish the different makes of the tents.' 'How?' 'I can blend into the crowd of people gathered for the slave auction. His goggles amplified the ambient light. What?' Voice asked. Below. Uriah paused after e ach misstep. Tonight it was packed with auctioneers trying to bid on the latest items. complete with torn rebars jutting out from the s ides. looking at the line of broken slaves ancho red in their chains and wearing rags that threatened to disintegrate at a touch. 'This may actually work to my advantage. 'WAIT!' URIAH SAID. The tents grew thicker around him as Goliath men. the wall lined with glow-liquid.. The centrepiece was a large ring over a d ozen metres in length.' Uriah cleared the lip of the crater and slowly moved down to the first clusters of tents. bathed and ate dinner in the open.' Voice said. Good luck. It was obvious that this lot distrusted strangers. but most local d enizens were of normal stature.a huge slab of rock mat was once a building's wall. only tolerating them for the auction. the crater was shallow . he stepped into the light and walked down the sloped. He suspected that those marked wit h paints belonged to the Lord of Ruin's foot-soldiers. admittedly.

all well-dressed despite their surroundings. As he approached the bottom of the crater. The crowds were likewise thicker here. He chose a cluster of three men and two women. stumble around in the dark. his voice no stronger than a whisper. a suspicion made l ikelier by the larger tents and more intricate markings painted on their sides. Uriah headed back down. the men bound for back-breaking physical labour and the women for domestic work or to satisfy someone's carnal pleasures. with people bumping into one another to r each the auction. I have an idea. Despite the noise of the crowd. M etal pens lined the street with every variety of human misery caged within. He finally stopped at the edge of the street.' Uriah said. To impress all these visitors/ 'And where would that be?' Uriah asked. The smell was horrible. 'Noming yet. but their boots were ragged and crafted with the kind of care only the rich could afford. He won't recognize me/ 'One would hope/ Voice replied. Otherwise. Uriah knew it served as a warning. 'Actually. selling a steady stream of slaves to the hungry crowd. Uriah waited until another two men left the auction. seemingly without purpose. The bottom of the crater was for Lords of Ruin only. 'Anything?' Voice asked. 'He saw another one. . he passed a fence of twisted girders pointe d outward like pikes. 'Could be anywhere/ Voice said. I've seen his face before/ 'Has he seen yours?' 'Not this face/ Uriah said with a smile. Or in a private ten t/ 'So. 'I can't locate Jaffa Hur's tent/ Uriah said with a whisper. then another. growing more comfort able with his surroundings. and followed the m back up the slope until it was obvious they were leaving the crater. From the two rotting corpses impaled on the girders and painted skulls hanging from the bent metal. Jaffa is likely holdi ng court tonight. a barker's voice rose above the others. and allowed people to rush past him. 'Well? Are you sure it was him in Cantrall's recordings?' 'Yes/ Uriah said. The pair turned do wn one street. The pair were cloaked. and the Goliaths patrolled the area with h eavy weapons and mean scowls. Finally they cleared the corner of a tent and Uriah f ollowed. Pray for luck/ 'Already did/ Uriah said. nobody was willing to stop and wait under the weight of the stench. The tents at the bottom of the crater served as part of the slavers' compound. He brushed past several wealthy buyers attired in a rich array of clothing. scouting the people entering and leaving the noisy auc tion ring. He followed them on their slow saunter through the streets. 'He was one of the five who received an implant. It all owed him a few moments to survey the area. near an op en sewer trench. 'He could be at the auction. They spoke in low voices and studied their surroundings carefully. Uriah felt a twinge of sadness for the sorry lot on stage. how does that help me?' 'He'll expect his rich guests to pay their respects/ 'You're saying follow the rich buyers till they gravitate into his orbit/ 'It's an option. Uriah persevered because hardly anyone paid attention to him as they rushed by.Uriah continued his slow trek through the crater's streets.

cutti ng Uriah across the cheek. no scar. but his expression had changed from one of cruelty t o one of animal caution. Then best make sure nobody finds them/ Uriah said. and the strip dissolved. one man. The swordsman slumped to the ground before his friend even reacted. and he almost impaled himself on its tip u pon rounding the tent. mis time catching the second man with a spin kick in the gut. His compatriot. his movement a blur. behind a rack with drying clothes. The Goliath weighed both bags in his large hand and nodded. he was hidden in the shadows and free from th e prying eyes on the street. 'Hardly/ Uriah said. though at least one Golia th with twin Mohawks watched the exchange with cruel interest. Uriah returned their smile and pulled his bolt pistol. he spun past the blade. The Lord of Ruin ganger was still there in the shadows. tossing the Goliath the secon d money purse. rob two men of such skill?' Uriah said. but there was only malicious humour in their eyes. Uriah realized they'd spotted him following them. I was following you so I cou ld offer him my respects/ 'And why would he want the respect of a guttersnipe?' the swordsman said. he applied water from a bottle to the strip and felt it bubble against his skin. 'Likel ier. I'm sorry for the confusion/ Before Uriah could turn to leave. Uriah looked around again. It stung fiercely. The smile remained carved on Uriah's face. the shots muffled by the swordsman's body. it looks like we have ourselves a thief/ the swordsman said. 'Well. More wonders of Van Soar technology. though they obviously misunder stood his intentions. he'd have to remember to tha nk Morgane for her wonderful gifts. Low voices approached Uriah's position from an adjoining alley. Uriah quickly pu lled himself deeper into the shadows. leaving him with a wound glued shut and. After a few moments. his cloak pulled tight around his sh . Uriah pulled th e trigger twice. URIAH SQUATTED BEHIND a dark tent. wearing a blond moustache and golden locks. Uriah's hand went to die wound. The medical adhesive strip he'd attached to his face stung. Uriah wasn't going to give him that chance either. trying to catch the blood that dribble d between his reddened fingers. They were going to hurt him regardless. A few seco nds more. 'I was seeking Jaffa Hur. Uriah walked away. nodded. 'Jaffa don't like dead bodies on auction night. He met the two men's gazes.The sword was level to Uriah's chest. but it kept the wound cl osed. 'I thought you were going to Jaffa Hur. locating the Goliath who'd been watching the exchange . The street was relatively empty. Ain't good for business/ the gan ger said. Uriah thought. his cloak mom entarily blinding the swordsman. 'How could I. and Uriah emptied another two muffled shots. this time into the man's chest. Uriah leaned down and took the money purses off both bodies. you thought us easy marks for robbing/ Uriah glanced around. hopefully. his face ful l with beard. The gun followed the kick. He tossed one to the ganger who caught it widiout ever drawing his gaze away from Uriah. He spun again. the swordsman lashed out with his blade. before punching the pistol's barrel straight into the man's gut.

' Uriah said to himself. heading for the street. The speaker was a large woman with the well-muscled body of a Goliath and a long ponytail on her otherwise shaved head. 'I've drawn too much suspicion. though Uriah had no inclination of remaining the prey. and fought hard to hear the instructions.' Voice said.. was walking parallel to LJriah and wa tching him carefully. Might be time to pull out. he did. Uriah manoeuvred himself into the heart of the crowd. Uriah was a few yards from the street slope when he caught movement out of the c orner of his eye. This was certa inly a hunt. Her companion was equa lly built.oulders. which was slightly larger than fhose around it. 'I believe the ganger who saw me k ill those two men has given me up/ 'Be careful.' Uriah slipped through the crowd at the slave auction. He stared at a grand black pavilion. 1 saw him!' 'He ain't here now. nearly muted by the surrounding crowds. all bleeding' a woman's voice said.' 'Well you're in luck. with a roadmap of scars on his half-naked body and a high green Mohawk. 'Ducked in here. 'Done/ he said. more compact in frame than his companions.' the woman said. Someone who's been to the area before/ 'He knows where Jaffa Hur's tent is?' Uriah asked. 'If it's marked with red paint. There wer e two of them. The man followed. watching his surroundings car efully. Faces flashed before him.' the man said. Call it a lost cause/ 'My dear Voice. 'Not good. 'until you see a street with a high pole mounted with a skull/ 'Ah! I see it and I think I see Jaffa Hur's tent/ Uriah said. and the ga ngers were waiting in the wings. Up to no good. Uriah waited for the footsteps to fade away before emerging from his hole and du cking down another alley away from the two Lords of Ruin. He dropped a smoke grenade. 'I spoke with a friend. he saw another Goliath trying to follow him. where the crowds were thickest. Neither of them had eye im plants. He headed back down the crater.. then that's it/ 'I don't think that's paint/ Uriah said. Uriah stood there as the ashen cloud enveloped him. I reckon/ Uriah readied his bolt pistol and waited for whoever it was to appear. 'I've been spotted/ Uriah whispered to Voice. 'Don't see nobody. He affixed his trusty re-b reather to his mouth and drew down the goggles to protect his eyes. but in between the gaps. A Lord of Ruin. Gambles require risk/ Uriah said. his gaze halfway u p die crater. before steering back into the crowd.saw them. under the raised arms of t hose bidding on the current lots. It was hard ignoring the shouting to gain me auctioneer's attention. Turn right/ Voice said. but Uriah foun d himself facing the stage. for which Uriah was grateful. 'More trouble?' Voice asked. 'Go to the auction ring and face the stage. shaking his head. 'He came through here. Screams and angry voices fol . '. walking down another alley.' 'Maybe that way. The throng of auction-goers was thickest closest to the slave podium. stepping back out into the streets with his h ood drawn down.

and his skin glistened under a thick sweat. Plastic and sheet-me tal plating stitched the walls while dripping red marks offered crude warnings to rivals. A quick glance inside co nfirmed his suspicions. He made his way up through the back ways. lit by three or four candles. Blood-soaked bandages covered his otherwise bare chest and abdomen. An empty cha . 'Best you not disturb him. The Goliath brute muscled his way through the crowd and reached past people to g rab Uriah by the hem of his cloak. The crowds still milled about in the streets while the Lords of Ruin tried weeding through them to find Uriah.' a woman's voice said. The room beyond was dark. as well as whispered voices. He needs time to recover. but the tattooed Lord of Ruin spotted him. He was hoping to slip by un noticed. bringing those caught within it to choking. and ignored the messages with a smile. 'Infection set in/ The news was met with two grunts and people moving away. Uriah's path took him past one of the large gangers. confident that the commotion was drawing everyone to the main streets. however. There was also the rhythm of laboured breathing. further drowned out by the growing stampede. 'Going dark/ Uriah cut a vertical gash in the fabric with his knife. was all it took to drop the brute. Careful not to push against the tent wall. The pavilion was section ed by a heavy curtain five feet away from the wall. It wouldn't be long before they moved into the side streets and tent alleys to find him. their candle-cast shado ws dancing against the wall. Uriah hadn't much time left. Escaping auction-goers quickly fdled the sloped streets and Uriah allowed the mo b to carry him towards Jaffa's pavilion. and Uriah moved with the panicked mob. close enough that the ganger didn't see die bolt pistol until die barrel was pressed i nto his ribcage. He crouched down and cut a small v-shaped slit betwee n two plates. Uriah allowed himself to be pulled in. wasn't flue nt in Goliath-tongue. Heart accelerant.lowed as the smoke spread out. a trunk covered in stitched leather and a scavenged cabinet complete with scratches and worn lacquer. hacking coughs and fits. Uriah ducked into the alleys between the tents. was it?' 'I believe so. straight for the Goliaths who were maintainin g the perimeter. The crowd s cattered in different directions. Uriah waited until the noises inside the pavilion had died away completely befor e speaking with Voice. APPROACHING JAFFA'S TENT proved less of an issue than Uriah's initial attempts t o find it. That was all Uriah could really see except for the corner of two pieces of furniture. A single muffled shot. Something about an infection/ 'He did take an internal organ. I'm not an expert/ That's major surgery. Jaffa Hur's tent was a pavilion with a three-peaked canopy. Uriah peered through the slit. it was a bedroom of sorts with the mighty Jaffa Hur in bed and unconscious. Uriah. When the crowd lost some of its momentum. 'I believe Jaffa Hur is still recovering from the operation. And frankly transplant rejection s and infections kill more patients than the operation itself/ 'Indeed/ Uriah said.

mey'd have turned away from him as mey headed for the chair. again a woman speaking of Jaf fa's care. When the pug-nosed ganger entered. but anyone entering the room wouldn't notice him at first glance . In fact. Uriah paused long enough to wipe his blade on the ganger's vest and to confirm t hat the exchange hadn't alerted others. Still. with luck. It was poor cover. The knife sank into the man's chest through a thick vest. his face contorted by shock. The Lord of Ruin fell to the ground. There was movement from beyond the curtain. There was no such stood next to his cot for whoever watched over the ganger brute. He could still hear hushed voices toward the pavilion's entrance. catching the Goliath in the neck. 'Jezra?' a man's voice demanded from the next room. U riah rash forward and grabbed the knife's bloody pommel. but well-defined and scarred enough to have seen combat of her own. He unsheathed his knife for th e quiet kill. One step at a time. The woman didn't see Uriah as she entered and turned for the chair. She sensed the rush. th ose within the gang who refused to inject themselves with the chemicals to add obscene muscle mass. Uriah launched the blade with an underhand flick. Unfortunately for Uriah. Uriah struck her against the back of the head with the knife pommel. Slipping through the slit was easy. He hid to the side of the cabinet. Uriah shut the man's mouth with his hand. this meant he had the caretaker to neutr alize as well as any of Jaffa's personal guards who were inside the pavilion. The Goliath struggled for a moment before his eyes went dull. Uriah thought to himself. The Goliaths considered them to be inferior. She groaned at the pain . Not as well-built as the Lords of Ruin themselves. but never enough to treat them harshly. He had killed women in the past. two women and at least one man. Uriah had heard of such men and women. and gra bbed the knife again to stab him several times in rapid succession. rendering her senseless. Uriah poked the woman hard in the ribs with two fingers. she was dazed. gurgling. He sliced it out sideways. Footsteps approached and Uriah's fea rs were realised. preventing him from screaming. It took a second blow to knock out Jezra. Uriah threw the weapon with practiced aim. He rushed up behind her with his drawn blade. Uriah stayed low to the ground. but preferred avoiding it when pos sible. it shielded him from the curtain. but Uriah had already entered the main pavilion in time to see another ganger with dreadlocks running forward. Uriah realised. severing the vocal cords and j ugular. She was probably the local midwife. Uriah flipped the knife and caught it by the blade. leaving Uriah with one last unpleasant tas k to complete. Jaffa Hur's caretaker was a local woman. but didn't turn in time. Uriah waited until the voices in the next room finally said their farewells. a woman was a woman and Uriah was rather squeamish about killing her. She collapsed with a muffled grunt. . He slumped to the floor. He cursed under his breath. below the fl ickering candle lights. Blood spurted from the wound in thick rivers and the ganger grunted.

eyeing Uriah warily. looked bac k only to confirm that no one was pursuing him. It spread quickly. Uriah removed the skeletal plate of titanium. struggli ng against her bonds. oxygenat e the blood more easily and deliver an electric charge to stimulate the heart/ 'I have no idea what all thats means/ Uriah said. revealing the exposed organs. Uriah had reached the top of the crater's lip. screaming for help as she fled. Jezra turned and darted past the f lames. 'It can boost the heart rate. He tried not to grimace and focused on other things i nstead. With little thought . Uriah examined where the bone ribs ga ve way to metal.Jaffa Hur remained unconscious despite the grisly scene played out in his tent. Uriah marched back into laffa Hur's bedroom and found the woman. Uriah slipped back through the slit in the tent's fabric before flames claimed it as well. his bolt pistol at the ready and his face covered by th e hood and goggles. Uriah cut through the thick ropes of pectoral muscles to reach the sternum and ribs. 'I have it/ Uriah said. Uriah had already bound and gagged Jezra.' IT WAS QUICK work. It was grim work. Hur twitched before falling still. leaving the two Lords of Ruin dead where they lay. and proceeded to crack the bolted seams. he nodded for her to escape outside.. The roaring fire was joined by the concerned s creams of the Goliaths trying to reach their leader through the pavilion's front flap. He cut the ropes around her wrists. for which Uriah was genuinely sorry. all of whom were too interested in the blaze to pay him any heed. Uriah wasn't one for c ruelty despite the brutality of his action. sighing. 'Doesn't matter now. He moved against the rush of curious onlookers. There was no hesitation in Uriah's step. Uriah. With his knife. Walking through the back alleys of the tent city. The fire had sprea d to several other tents. Cantr all had swapped six ribs as well as the breastbone with titanium replacements. any other things. Uriah directed himself up the crater's slope.. She hesitated and the fire bellowed its heated roar around them. driving up the heat. looking down at the unconscious woman. Uri ah cut away the blinking Accelerant and dropped the mess into a pouch. Moments later. Can you escape?' 'Not easily/ Uriah said. but . He cut away the bandages to revea l an ugly chest gash stitched together with black thread. It took a quick moment for the fabrics to catch aflame and faster still for the wildfire to spre ad up the walls and across the ceiling. Uriah placed the candles near the pavilion's different walls and hanging partitions. He took a pillow to muffle the sound and placed it over Jaffa Hur's face before firing twice. Jezra. With Jezra's escape. 'But I have an i dea/ 'Don't you always. however. s o little blood to spill. Jezra stood. There was no heartbeat. it was purple from the bruising. but Uriah had little choice. he i nstantly spotted the octagonal heart accelerant that was fused against the grey-red heart itself. He wasn't interested in anyone except Jaffa Hur. 'I don't even know what it does/ 'It has several functions/ Voice replied. Uriah cut away the stitches with his knife and spread the wound open with his gloved hands.

. 'See if it's truly un ique/ 'I . perhaps more than I need to understand its importance/ 'Perhaps/ Voice said in her typically succinct manner. 'But considering I just sank my hands into some one's chest to remove an implant. 'But can you take that ch ance?' 'Indulge me one question/ Uriah said. annoyed by her own tone. 'Only one?' 'For now/ Uriah responded. 'I'm coming to deliver the implant/ After absorbing the sight for a moment longer. 'Isn't that risky?' Voice asked. You want to see the im plant. are you bringing the implant?' Uriah thought about it for a moment. Uriah was about to press the matter when his answer came. But why?' 'Bring the implant to me. Uriah watched the slopes of the bowl-like basin glow red with the flames. The hallways were empty. Uriah's steps grew heavier each footfall. Fa tigue overtook him swiftly. I don't even know what you look like/ 'It's a game we both play. 'I like mysteries/ Uriah said. 'but you're the one who needs the help/ 'Please/ Uriah said. 'Normally. Very well. IT WAS LATE into the night when Uriah finally returned to his hab block in Shado wstrohm. most good Delaque quiet and asleep. strike first.that was the nature of his work. 'Done/ Uriah said. 'What quality of trust do you expect when you don't offer it yourself?' Uriah as ked. 'Escher/ Voice said. I think I earned a moment's reflection/ 'Something's bothering you. 'Just admiring the view/ Uriah said. 'You're too well-spoken and too wel l-learned to have been raised outside of a Guild school/ There was a pause on the other end. a faint smile on his lips. death and carnage were random and often most effective when indiscriminate. Anticipate. The blaze was enough to light the entire cr ater. 'So.I'm not certain/ Uriah admitted. 'Soren's life meant nothing to anyone. But I want something in exchange . And yet you trust me enough to bring me along on your missions/ Voice said. . It 's the implants they want. Very well. CHAPTER: SEVEN 'Expect the Unexpected' is the credo of distracted fools. perhaps even hurt. 'I was born into House Escher/ Uriah smiled. prepare an d when all else fails. Uriah left the area and vanished into shadows beyond the burning crater. state your question. What's the matter?' 'None of this makes sense/ Uriah said. 'You love a mystery as much as I do. yes/ Uriah responded. Run!' Voice said. 'Almost/ 'Then what are you doing there.' 'Excuse me/ Voice said. I may not answer it. I can examine it/ Voice offered. 'Meaning?' 'Meaning I know nothing about you. 'You escaped?' Voice asked.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. but if I do my answers will be honest/ 'Which House did you belong to?' Uriah said. "You don't trust me?' Voice asked. Uriah could hear the surprise in her voice.

though he did have extra copies hidden elsewhere. He raced to it. drawers tossed to t he floor and spilt of their contents and the monitor on his workbench still smoked from its shattered vid-screen. The dra wer had been pulled out and the hidden compartment was empty. hoping against fear that it was still there. 'Tread carefully. ensuring nothing was out of place. Once in his hermetically s ealed office. Morgane's keepsake was missing. He slid the implant through and waited. He switched on the lights and was immediate ly jolted awake. He left. Uriah entered his hab block with no other thought than falling into a fast dream . 'Someone ransacked my hab!' Uriah responded. It was someone with a grudge. The desk where he kep t Morgane's pendant was overturned. sitting behind his desk. He had never seen Voice. going over to his desk. Nobody wis hed him a good morning. To whatever end prompted you to send another Handler on my assignment/ This again? Your paranoia knows no bounds/ 'And again you insult me/ Uriah said shaking his head. then. I don't take intrusion well. They knew better than to bother the master of the Handlers. It was only on second glance that Uriah's heart went cold. The last thing Percal expected to see upon opening the door and stepping into hi s office was Uriah seated there waiting for him to arrive. Sofa and chairs were gutted of their stuffing. N ow he had lost his only advantage. Uriah. He examined it. he would remove the mask and allow the room's filtration system to do its work. 'What has that to do with anything?' 'I don't believe you robbed my hab block. 'Admiring your furniture/ Uriah said. There was no more to it than that. His hab block was in rains. he was regaining his composure. 'Practically gutted the place with their heavy hands. Neither do I/ 'What are you talking about?' Percal asked.It had been a busy day. as were the recordings of Cantrall 's implant. I think you sent one of your pawns int o my home to do the deed/ To what end?' Percal asked. and t aking a side-trip to deliver the implant to Voice. The artificial eye was gone. By the looks of it. someone who t ook particular delight in ruining his possessions. The workbench was in a state with tools thrown and broken. whether that meant sleeping on the couch or making it into his bedroom. Playing regicide I see/ Uriah said nodding over to the holographic board. between his misadventures with Slag and Jaffa Hur.' 'A coincidence. The fact that you tolerate his sabotage when I'm do . and tonight was no exception. She'd l eft a slot open in the reinforced door of her hideout. 'I don't know which of yo ur slights is worse. Looking at the mess. Uriah cursed himself for not protecting those better.' 'And you think I did it? You're a far poorer judge of character than I expected/ 'I think not. Percal wore a filter mask over his nose slits to filter out airborne particles. Uriah realised that this was more than someone searching his dwelling. more tired than curious. 'What are doing in my office?' Percal asked in more of a growl than a question. Nothing. PERCAL HEADED DOWN Shadowstrohm's corridors on his way to his office. The fact that you sent a Handler after me. the chieftain spy of Hous e Delaque.

his eyes distant. I survived through sheer luck. You crave risks that few can provide. Alerting enemies of my position-' 'Sending other Handlers after the same prize?' Uriah asked. And suddenly everything clicked into plac e. Uriah thought. Why do you say Kaden?' Uriah studied Percal for a moment. I'm certainly not the Handler you are/ 'You exaggerate. in as much as a predator was playful with his intended meal. He seemed playful. He'd been playing the game for so long that Uriah doubted he kn ew how to interact normally with people. nothing m ore. into the give and take that said everything and nothing in equal stroke s. trying to fathom his motives. What wasn't being said was more important. why did you grow bor ed of the game?' . shrugging. In fact. 'Did I ever tell you about my mentor?' 'Only in name. 'How long has it been?' Percal's smile broadened. 'Oh. You alm ost wish others would offer you greater challenges in the course of your duties/ 'You mean your opponents?' 'Among others/ Percal responded. shrugging. 'I'm quite comfortable here. 'No/ Percal said. Percal was the oldest surviving Delaque Handler. 'Small tricks. knew it was Kaden. Uriah returned the smile and switched tactics. the game which required its own set of rules and its own language.' Percal smiled. still doing my part to se rve the House/ 'I don't know if I could give it up so easily/ Uriah said. You were quite good at playing the game. So he elevated the game to challenge me/ 'How so?' Uriah asked. 'Since what?' 'Since you engaged in field work. Or the fact that you actually believed Kaden could best me/ 'Kaden?' Percal said. He was playing the game. Starting me off with the barest of intelligence. 'You're embarrassing me. becoming more relaxed . Always pushing me harder than the assignment demanded/ 'Cruelty?' Uriah asked. He would never speak in direct terms. Uriah. he wasn't being dishonest. 'I can't remember all his tricks. Percal wasn't q uestioning the accusation. His body language shifted. Uriah realised. eventually it becomes boring. Liam the Grey. He was shifting tactics as well. I'm sure/ Uriah said. Quite possibly. He's playing the game. 'He thought the assignments I received were beneath my the house's bidding. ' He thought it best to keep me challenged/ "What happened?' Uriah asked. he was calm and intrigued. The fact that you continue to lie to me about it. No. The nature of the conversation was about to shift into the dou blespeak of the Delaque. of course. synchronizing himself with Uriah. 'But you must miss the game/ 'Not really/ Percal said. correct? His reputation speaks for itself/ 'He was a good mentor. Kaden was the only Handler with enough of a grudge ag ainst Uriah to ransack his hab and destroy his belongings for the sheer pleasure of it. Uriah understood what was happening. Giving me a few hours to resolve the issue. yes/ Percal said. and he'd evade strai ghtforward questions as a defensive measure. 'Been?' Percal asked.cas ual. What was about to be said had to be ignored. 'With that kind of adversity.

Better nothing divert you from your duty/ 'Seems like a hollow existence. Uriah could see him wrestling with his patience. Did Percal know Uriah was friends with Soren? pid he know about Morgane? O r perhaps Voice? Uriah wasn't sure. but he was also cocky about it. 'Are you sure he was challenging you? Or was he playi ng the game through you?' Percal hesitated. doesn't it?' Uriah asked. He wanted a worthy successor/ 'Are you sure that's all?' Uriah asked. we die alone/ Percal said. He'd struck a nerve. A man like you can hardly afford other distractions/ 'Distractions? Such as?' 'No. The game doesn't allow for d istinction in our lives. but Percal would play it vague enough to Iceep Uriah on his toes. 'No. Uriah?' Ahh. Better the game serve as your sole mistress. Percal went to the board and saw that the hologram piece for his opponent's Ecdesiarch had been moved. Here's where he goes on the attack. 'Perhaps/ Percal said. Genadine. And my new mentor. then they are your weakness to exploit/ What are you saying?' Uriah asked. of course/ Percal said.'Because Liam died early in my life. no. 'Me?' he asked. everything else is superfluous. all assets to be used against you. That meant he would lose. Uriah diought. I'm merely speaking in the greater sense. You would do well to have a mentor like him. There can be no other way/ 'And whose truth is that? Yours or Liam's?' Percal shrugged. 'If they are your strength. Surviving the game is perhaps worthier/ 'Good. and the stakes were too high for such allowances. 'It's a truth I've come to accept. So she sent me on assignment after assignment. We live alone. 'Liam was a great Handler/ Percal said. 'Liam. The regicide board flickered. Kaden was out to prove himself at Uriah's expen se. nodding. To have none of those is to have no weaknesses/ 'No friends? No family? Sounds like it means to have no strength/ Uriah said. Friends. Once you realise the game is your reality. you say? Well. He knew Uriah wa s good at what he did. I've seen Handlers strive for other goals. never asking for anything more than my quick suc cess/ 'So it grew boring/ Uriah said. Percal had to admit that using Kaden might have been a mistake. famil y. We play the game. 'But what of you. 'Greater than you or I. it was becoming personal for him. Unfortuna tely. Percal was pre .fair game and all that. 'Surely the game isn't your sole ambition?' The game?' Uriah said. The comments were strange and could be unders tood in any number of ways. You have no privacy. half-listening while stitching the piec es together. yes. We always play the game. 'How so?' Percal asked. 'Without Liam to challenge me. It was about time his opponent committed himself. 'Saying? Nothing. measuring his words carefully. Someone broke into your hab. was only inter ested in results. only to have such distractions cost them their lives. I mean/ Uriah said. suspiciously. We are in it whether in the arms of those we love or fighting the enemy. fhey might not have done so had they not considered it a weak lin k .' 'Who says I don't?' Uriah asked with a smile. 'I'm merely trying to help you free yo urself. What he did was for my betterment. Everything you are and everyone you know is committed to the game/ PERCAL SAT IN his chair for a few moments after Uriah had left. good.

'Sorry. it said: meet me in a pre-arranged location. the inn itself was relatively clean and well maintained despite its hourly rates and the constant stream of prostitutes and their clients. thanks to Uriah's playing with two exposed wires in his own pict screen.pared for it. Best not get comfortable wi th one place regardless of its qualities. six images manifested on screen. 'So. Percal returned to his chair. The Citizen slid across the board into position. 'It'll have to do for now. The message was more a signal . Then again. saddened. Morgane studied him with a worried look. 'They rent by the week. To anyone else. It's been a rough few days. bemused curiosity in his expression. but she'd never admit to that. That didn't stop h er from tightening her grip around his waist. A quick scan indicated it had remained inactive since the night b efore. 'I missed you/ she said between gasps of air. She understood what vvas at stake. ma . Had the static bursts emerged every eight seconds. Four second bursts meant a different place altogether. He smiled and touched the base of one of his Citizens before touching an empty spot on the board. love/ Uriah said. He activated the black pict screen and entered in three separate code sequences to access his logic hub. it meant nothing. a mixture of the quiet of the morning an d uncertainty. 'If you're trying to work around the pain. A moment later. Morgane would have rendezvoused with him at his no-longer safe ho use. We have it for a few hours at best/ 'Is that all?' Morgane asked. Uriah checked the eye piece and opened the door quickly. The static burst in pitch every four seconds. Morgane slipped through and was immediate ly in his arms. The inn was crushed between two larger buildings that loomed over it and appeare d to sweat oil stains. Uriah smiled. Uriah hadn't tampered with his network. when he'd left it. her lips pressed against his. All Canttall's customers as captured by his ocular piece . I've been put through my paces/ Morgane nodded. 'Who are you hiding from me? Nobody is spared fr om me game/ URIAH HAD SENT the message less than an hour ago. Percal reached into the hidden pocket and pulled out a tear-shaped pendant hung from a delicate chain.a pict call with static drowning both voice and sound. It was anonymous. Uriah grimaced and tensed. taking comfort from one another and making up for long absences. Uriah/ he said to himself. They kissed. thankfully. but to Morgane.all recipients of Soren's implants . Tm a bit tender. He examined it. laughing. 'I missed you too/ 'Pleasant place. the day and the hour. Offer them a rate on minutes and I 'm sure they'd take it. 'I'll have to work around the pain then. How long do we have here?' Morgane asked. any night away from one another was a long absence. The knock at the door was almost timid.all data stolen from Uriah's logic device. He was sure he'd caught Morgan e sleeping. It'll get better. peering around. 'I know/ Uriah responded. I promise/ Morgane smiled and nodded. Just tell me where it h urts/ 'Everywhere/ Uriah said.

He made off with Soren's arm/ 'Another Handler? Operating on his own?' 'Unfortunately not. 'I accessed the eye's memory archive and came away with the faces of the five remaining customers/ 'But?' Morgane asked. he draped his arm over her shoulder and kissed her on the back of her head. 'Kaden broke into my hab and stole the data. The fifth one bought the implant and keepsake/ Morgane's expression of shock quickly subsided. He took your black diamond pendant . When Kaden killed Cantrall and stole the implant. but that wasn't all he stole. As much as he deserves it/ 'Do you know him?' 'It's a man named Kaden. 'I think so/ 'But you're not sure?' 'The House trusts me/ Uriah said. He says he's testing my skills by challenging me with a rival. Uriah. 'I know you can be quite persuasive/ 'No. I'm certain of that/ 'Why would your House assign two handlers? Don't they trust you?' Morgane shifte d out of Uriah's arms and turned to face him. 'What else did Cantrall say about his customers?' Morgane asked. I stole Cantrall's eye implant. 'You'll adapt. I still came away with the better prize. The sixth and last was killed before the implant was grafted on/ 'Maybe the fifth one has his own bio-surgeon/ 'Or maybe he's a broker. I have backups. 'SOREN is DEAD. as was the last ganger. 'Did you remember what I taught you about the hidden protocols?' 'I did/ Uriah said. was distracted by all the things he had yet to tell her. yes. It was a Van Saar mo del/ 'Ah/ Morgane said with a large smile. however. in turn. He was officially sanctioned/ 'Meaning?' 'Meaning I can't eliminate him. Uriah swept her off her feet and carried her towards the bed. There was another Handler there.' Morgane repeated. Cantrall. What happened?' 'I'm not sure yet/ Uriah admitted. more statement than fact. He's playing at some game.gangers by the looks of them/ 'He operated on them?' 'On four. Whoever murdered Soren sold his implants to a black-market bio-s urgeon named Cantrall. but mere's something else. it's not like that/ Uriah said with a sigh. but I'm not certain yet/ 'What do your instincts tell you?' Uriah laughed and shook his head. 'I went to question him. my love. 'I'm afraid my instincts are preoccupied at th e moment. sensing Uriah's hesitation. sold the implants to six others . This thing with Soren with you . She leaned back int o Uriah's chest. You always do/ With that. 'I know you can. They lapsed into silence.ybe you should wait outside/ 'Not a chance/ Morgane said. She pushed a strand of black hair from her face. That doesn't mean anything/ she . 'I suspected as much.has me so turned around/ 'I can take care of myself/ Morgane said. She was concerned. pushing another pillow behind his back. 'It's a messy affair and I'm afraid it's about to get messier. 'I'm certain. but he was dead. but I'm not sure about my Overse er. I don't know/ Uriah said. bot h lying in bed.

What was their poison. 'It never ends wim you. Well then. he looked away. Uriah stayed in the shadows of an alleyway. in turn. 'I appreciate your concern. rag-wearing men scourin g the refuse piles for food.' Uriah counted the number of angry.' Morgane said. 'You pay for those kinds of questions/ 'Indeed/ Uriah said. This won 't end until he kills me. not around me. All of them were home to squatte rs or the gangs that could hold them. the Van Saar. her tone laced with an annoyed lilt. the Orlocks. There's something else.' Voice said. 'But you don't have to. 'I'm sorry. 'Or it could mean everything. That is why I only took this room for a day/ Uriah hesitated. it might be for the best/ 'No/ Morgane said. though. It appeared as though it had been built inside the level's support pylon. 'So be it/ he whispered back. 'Do you still have the physique of one?' 'Uh-uh. or I kill him. A couple kicked the scrawny.' Voice replied.' Voice said. Whether he knows about you or not. crooked fingers. one of many in this tight maze. I love you too much/ 'And I love you too much to see you hurt/ 'I am not some timid flower to be crashed under someone's boot/ Morgane cupped U riah's chin in her hands. but I will not allow anyone to co me between us.the Delaque. He saw me at Cantrall's. studying the mammoth building across the narro w street.' The lovers sank back down to the bed.' 'I know.' Morgane said. 'It's difficult.' he said.' There's nothing. "You do realise this will end in both of us becomi ng fugitives/ 'Likely.' 'All right. Slag is after me.' Morgane smiled and nodded. He has my scent. 'Really? She's a member of your house. love. 'Something to keep in mind. Corval is matriarch for the Cybilline Sisterhood/ 'Heard of them/ Voice said.' she whispered. Someone they can use against me. Whatever it is. That's why I think we should-' 'Stop right there/ Morgane said.' Uriah said. 'HER NAME IS Corval. does it?' 'Never. 'Let them come . isn't there? Something you're not telling me. 'Of course/ Uriah said. 'Name's not familiar. but an eventuality I'm prepared for/ 'As am I/ Uriah said. A lattice of the pylon's I-beam s and girders covered the building like a scabbard covers a sword. She pressed her finger to his lips.said. I 'm strong enough to hear it. again?' she seemed to be . Anyway. drawing into a kiss. 'end him before he pays you in k ind. Her face was a storm of emotions. 'If you're about to suggest we keep our distance-' Uriah turned to face her. a mixture of indignation and anger. 'I'm no longer Escher. but m y life is now under scrutiny. both he and my Overseer know I have someone in my life. I was careful in coming here. that it's easy to lie. wellbuilt women walking through the various streets and alleys. I've been a part of this for so long. in one another's warm embrace. took her hand and kissed her finger. They're well placed in House Escher.' Uriah said. The other buildings rose up several storeys around him like dirty. I will not be b ullied and I will not leave your side/ 'Morgane-' 'My decision is final/ she whispered before kissing him on the lips. 'Morgane. I'm-' 'Stop. love. Uriah. all of them.

'Contact me when you need help/ With that. Silen ce beyond. The nearby window was one of the few without furniture or metal sheets covering it. Uriah removed his gloves and slowly crawled up the side of the building. Jester. the Escher did not offer men the same consideratio n. more than anything . 'Gasser Bars are as far as I go to ruin my health/ 'Smart.asking herself. but the floors were solid beneath Uriah's feet . he darted across the street and reached a tigh t alley along the side of the building. I'm not downtrodden enough as a man or gifted with your attributes to play the woman/ You'll manage/ Voice said. the lifestyle is thrust upon us all. Despite the building's di lapidated exterior. which always worked to Uriah's benefit. Fortunately. and when age finally crumbled one or the other. ?fhe building was quiet. Her clients must be desperate to ride those r ushes/ 'I wouldn't know/ Uriah said. peering around. The room was respectable . The building and its pylon carapace served as a support column for the level above it. This time. pulling himself up along the pylon's slanted girders. That I will/ Uriah said. That. In fact. Uriah entered through the window. Once inside. occasionally shifting over to the building's facade to climb one handhold at a t ime. 'Corval is likelier to be at the top of the building than at the bottom. Uriah came to rest on a narrow ledge some three storeys high. Something about heig hts made people feel more secure. Uriah waited silently until two muscled and pony-tailed women walked past his hiding spot.' 'Ah. even by Escher standards. By the looks of it this was likely a woman's quarters or one belonging to a house trustee. the wall was relatively easy to scale between the small craters and the narrow ledges separating the floors. Though I wouldn't call your lifestyle healthy. how do they choose to denigrate men?' 'Drags/ Voice said. the lower floor windows were better covered than those on the upper floors. Uriah crept to the door and listened. A thick layer of detritus and rubble covered the floor. the section above woul d collapse as well. How will you play this? I suspect you can't blend in th is time/ You're right. the Escher provided better treatment for its interior. Uriah nodded. I think I'll start from the top and work my way down/ 'Any particular reason?' Voice asked. 'You mean. a worn dresser and a porcelain rinse bowl. I merely choose to play it well/ 'All right then.they did no t creak or groan. his foot testing the floor before he s ettled his full weight inside.with a made bed. Corval's den and the buildings next to it were built with age-pocked and crumbli ng plascrete. Uriah sidled up close to the window and peered inside. suddenly remembering. And the lower floors will be too well guarded to sneak or bluff my way through/ 'Get to it then/ Voice said. Quiedy.despite t he humidity-stained walls . 'Rotting Fetter Injections and Acidyne Spinal Taps/ Vicious. His trench coat fluttered freely behind him. it would be difficult to hear him move about. The structure cont inued for another storey above his head before melting into the ceiling. After another moment of lurking in the shadows.

you know. but from the other.else. 'is for all the Escher to be in one room/ 'The gatherings were fun/ Voice said. She keeps her daughters busy.' 'Escher don't sit around in their rooms. 'But. Not even a shuffle or muted conversation greeted his ears. I mean/ 'Some recruits don't know they're candidates yet/ Voice replied. If Corval operates a drug den. Beds half-made. the poor bastard is in so deep. For some men. They're highly motivated.. Kaden was also a lead in this sorry affa . the Escher are lik ely below. To other clientele. it bothers me the same. 'Just because the Escher enslave men-' 'Now's not the time to debate politics/ Uriah said. withi interest. I'm not here to liberate slaves or house property. tending to their male clientele/ 'I'm curious/ Uriah said. some were loc ked. Uriah tested the occasional door. if yo u want to know. Without sound. Uriah didn't like the feeling. food and protection. not entirely true. it intersected a nother corridor with more of the same. 'the sooner I'm done with this unfortunate mess. What is it?' she asked. the corridor met wall. This place disgusts me/ 'And yet you didn't blink twice when you were inside the Goliath slave camp/ Voi ce said. From among the stock of already broken men. Uriah equalized the pressure in his ears. played on his nerves. The building felt abandoned. 'Investigate the lower floors. the better. Or maybe. 'This is likely how Corval recruits.. Those rooms that Uriah found open seemed caught in transition. that's a small price to pay/ 'But Corval also sells drugs. Uriah thought.' The last thing I need/ Uriah said. Eventually. Rooms flanked either side of the corridor. but no sound came from them when Uria h pressed his ear against their doors. already/ 'Well/ Uriah said. And considering Corval is the only other face I recognized in tlie archives. You would stick out/ 'Suggestions?' Uriah asked. I have no other leads/ Well. I came for Cor val. what lay beyond this door was an absolute mystery. 'The Escher demand subservienc e in exchange for shelter. It was empty and silent -enough so that Uriah waited a few moments in the hopes of hearing something. Per haps the building matriarch runs a tight ship/ 'Meaning?' 'Meaning she doesn't like dawdlers. 'But you're right. breaks the will of stubborn individuals and brea k down potential recruits/ 'Recruits? You mean the men who come here are willing Escher slaves?' 'It's a hard life for many out there/ Voice said. 'Why denigrate men in this fashion? With drugs I mean/ 'The drugs keep the men pliant. I suppose uiis is where the Escher sleep. the Escher extend drug credi t. opening the transmission with Voice. his fingers light on the handle. Sound could have painted his expectations and warned him what to expect next. Uriah opened the door a crack and peered through the slit into the corridor. yesterday's clothing still heaped on the dressers. they 're at a gathering. but others opened into silent rooms. keeping his voice near sub-vocal. he becomes gang property. Unfortunately. What difference does it ma ke to him? He was a slave. 'What's on the floor?' 'Bedrooms. The floor is empty/ Uriah said. If someone cannot pay. From one end. irritation flecking her tone. cutting her off. shaking his head.

Uriah moved through the hallw ays of the enormous building. but Uriah had yet to move from his hiding spot. The gate was over thirty yards down the corridor. Uriah touched a droplet of blood and smudged it. He listened carefully before fine ssing open the lock with picks. nothing breathed. Nothing moved. enough for someone to slip through the crack. but Corval was not among them. He studied the gate through the crack of the partly open door. Five bodies had been dumped inside the room. all shot or hacked with large blades . Uriah quickly studied the three wo men's faces. More bullet holes riddled the nearby walls. he noticed a small blood smear on the floor that vanished under a door. now forewarned and. 'Still no sign of life?' Voice asked. . The little voice in Uriah's head screamed for him to leave. whatever had happened had been violent and recent. The hallway appeared smeared in blood. with at least two guards. It wouldn't have taken much effort to eliminate Kaden as a threat. The blackened joints hissed and popped sparks and the slab of iron was partly open. Uriah opened the door carefully. a huge slab of grey iron pinned to the floor with a pair of greasy hydraulic arms. Just be ca reful of the gate/ The gate?' 'Few Escher actually sleep with their mavants-' You mean slaves/ Uriah said. Thank you/ Uriah said. It's likely a heavily r einforced door. three strong-looking women and two scrawny men. too fresh for Uriah's comfort. the difference is negligible/ 'So. 'Not good/ Uriah said in a whisper. hence. Finally. Uriah crept from door to door. To an Escher. They were fresh. his body low to the ground and to the side. It was a trapdoor over the stairs. Uriah closed the door. 'Jester out/ FURTHER INTO THE floor and still no signs of life. having regained her composure. but that thought fli ckered for as long as it took Uriah to crush it. The slaves themselves maintain a second gate/ 'Let me guess . Only sile nce greeted him. Something had happe ned here in this building. so he peeked inside.probably Their wounds still appeared wet and the flies had yet to find them. and it was likely linked to recent events. Voice/ Uriah said after neither of them had spoken. Being a Handler meant entering unfamiliar and frightening waters. what's the gate?' 'It's what separates die Escher from slaves and clients. All that was left to do was to find that lin k. studying each for something new. forearmed. 'Head downstairs. It wa s partly wet. but Uriah wasn't ready to tap him yet. but Uria h didn't believe in wasting potential assets. looking for any hint that would tell the story here. Further down the corridor. 'Can we return to the moment at hand?' 'Agreed/ Voice said. Bein g a Handler meant committing to the unpleasant. he found it in one corrido r where bullet holes and blood spatters painted one of die walls. THE ESCHER GATE was located at the stairwell where the corridor separate slaves from the addicts or clients/ 'Correct/ Voice said.

' 'Understood. At the last door before the corridor widened. now. it'll be mine to play/ 'You are a dangerous man/ Voice said with some appreciation. sounding concerned. Sixth door down. They were waiting to catch . Quietly. Uriah moved away from the doorframe. 'I do appreciate the concern. clinging with magnetic grip. Noise erupted around Uriah. 'But someone has gone to the effor t of laying a trap. 'If it's obvious they're expecting someone. why pl ay into their hands?' Uriah's smiled deepened. Uriah understood their game. Quick whispers followed. At least not until I find Soren's implant. startled. he placed the matchbox at a different height and reminded himself of its location. I'm looking at the gate. Uriah then caught the hint of something. 'No survivors thus far. knee-height. then yes/ Uriah said. and for whom/ 'Why?' Voice asked. a tiny burst of air sounded from the matchbox and Uriah caught d ie glint of the silvery flechette firing into the opposite wall of the corridor. Voice. Each time. Uriah stopped and listened. 'Someone's upstairs/ a muffled voice cried. He pulled a r ectangular matchbox-like container from his pouch and fixed it inside the door frame. At every second door. If there's a trap to exploit. It stuck to t he metal. Uriah entered the corridor and moved to one of the doors. 'Hm?' 'Someone hid the bodies/ Uriah replied. I want to know why. but it was too lat e. perhaps?' 'And disappoint my hosts?' Uriah asked with a smile. the trapdoor's edges crimped and indented from something or someone str ong enough to force the hydraulics open. Uriah reminded himself. but the fact is I still retain the upper hand/ ??? do? Care to explain that/ 'I entered through the top floor . The gate looks badly damaged/ 'Maybe they abandoned the building/ 'Again. 'Gunplay and death isn't so uncommon as to require hiding the bodies. he affixed another matchbox to the door frame and w aited for the puff of air to follow. a shuffle of someone moving. 'Anything I can do? ' 'Not at the moment. It looks dama ged from here/ 'Time to leave. 'If I wasn't a Handler. at knee height.something they wouldn't expect or the trap wo uld have been sprung upstairs. darting from door frame to door frame. He not iced that the gate was heavily damaged. It had com e from the door right next to him. He then headed for the gat e. I'll stand by. Whether he'd brushed against the door inadvertently or they'd seen his shadow beneath the door's bottom edge.'You could say that. you could say that/ There was a pause on the other end before Voice spoke again. 'What did you find? ' 'Two rooms filled with dead bodies/ 'A fight?' 'Yes/ Uriah said. from the rooms next to him as well as several downstairs. Not unless killing everyone here was the first of two plans/ 'You're thinking trap?' 'Yes/ 'All the more reason to leave/ Voice said. Jester/ Thank you/ Uriah said. A second later. they knew he was there.

He leapt ove r the third wire and pretended to duck under another one before a voice caught his attention. Uriah fought to regain focus. 'Your life will depend on it. Slag looked to the behemoth and nodded. The message was cle ar: Salvation is a foot away. 'Only the best can be Handlers. sli cing cartilage. He went rigid with the spasms and rattled the bolted chair. Instead. Uriah cursed and ducked beneath the first matchbox. The behemoth tore into a fit of childish giggles and stumbled forwards half runn ing. 'Quit. unleashing a handful of Orlocks from each. H e caught Uriah by his collar and lifted him clean off the ground. his voice further away. and spine. They now realised the hallway was strung with micro-wire filaments. Before Uriah could slip free of the trench coat . Spots of blinding white light peppered Uriah's vision and the sound of rushing b lood almost drowned his hearing. He heard someone scream and glanced back long enough to see that someone had run in to the first micro-wire that he'd strung across the corridor. taunting him with it. 'Hurt more?' the behemoth asked somewhere in the distance. He placed the device on the table in front of Uriah. 'Focus. URIAH TRIED TO scream. Slag stood there with his men who look ed too scared to advance on him. behind him feet stampeded up the staircase and two doors opened in the corridor. surprised. before snapping.' Percal told the young Uriah. Percal loomed.. It looked like it had cut an inch into his nose. He never slowed. holding the mechanism that controlled the flow of electricity bur ning through Uriah. were also plated implants. Uriah now knew who had broken open the trapdoor. He was strapped in. but his arms were free. 'Uriah!' Uriah slowed and turned. twice.' Percal said. The voice in Uriah's head screamed for him to run. Uriah backed away. Uriah bolted back the way he'd come. he never reacted to the pain or the cut that stretched across his muscle d chest. despite himself. The behemoth reached the second wire trap and snapped it a quar ter inch inside his flesh. You're obviously not cut ou .someone crawling through the trapdoor. someone of Goliath stature with pistons and mechani cal claws for arms and hands. nearl y tearing it loose from the floor. Uriah barely had time to turn his head and avoid a broken nose. 'Get 'im/ he said. but the steady jolt of electricity sealed his jaw shut an d filled his nostrils with the smell of burning flesh. Uriah continued running and ducked to avoid another strand at neck level.' Uriah tried to scream T can't. but he was slipping out o f consciousness. Next to Slag was a behemoth. 'Not yet/ Slag said. 'It's Uriah!' someone shouted. to see through the pain.' but all that came out were grunts and squeals. By then it was too late. His shoulders.. the behemoth shoved him face first into the wall. hoping to snare them at a disadvantage. It was only when the third tripwire snapped against the behemoth's artificial legs that Uriah tri ed running. which meant Slag was nearby. The behemoth drooled and gi ggled to himself. The trap was meant for him. but he was caught off guard. he giggled harder. The Orlock behemoth lunged forward with a burst of speed that belied his size. half-lumbering.

Uriah smiled at the two men advancing on him. Percal walked out of the room. taking aim. Time you died/ Slag said. bringing the matchbox and micro-line well above their heads. enough to send arterial spray everywhere. 'Of course I'm stalling/ Uriah said with a laugh. or die here and now! And with that. 'Up his sleeves. but Uriah could see him deliberatin g matters. turned around long enough to notice Uriah's action. forced his fingers to move. but neither man noticed. The filament sliced through both jugulars and the throat. He pressed a small button on the matchbox's side. l eaving Uriah to the pain and the smell of burning flesh. You two. I could be wrong/ 'You're stallin'/ Slag said. The near -invisible flechette fired into the nearby wall. search 'im. 'Search everywhere!' Slag said with a growl. try ing to stay one step ahead of the . momentarily blinded from the pain of his shattered nose. There were two types of memory in Uriah that coexisted with one another. Uriah pulled out another matchb ox and quickly palmed it before the behemoth swung him around to face Slag. and in one quick flick of the wrist looped the wire around the first Orlock's neck. 'then you'll be disappointed.' Percal replied. The behemoth dropped Uriah with a dissatisfied rumble of a sigh and lumbered aft er Slag. The movement was automatic. 'I'm curious. The second ma n reeled back.' Uriah paused a moment when a thought occurred to him. strip 'im and bri ng 'im/ was his response before walking away. 'No gloating?' Uriah asked. That pulled the wire tight around the neck of the first ganger. It was enough for Uriah to drop the matchbox and run down the corridor. 'I thought idiots shot prisoners before questioning them about the implants. Slag. 'Hm/ Uriah said. leaving the device on the table. They searched him and removed his pouches while he raised his arms in mock surrender. ho wever.t for it' Uriah managed to shake his head from side to side by throwing his entire body in to the motion. Uriah's fingers reaching into the right pouch withou t thought or hesitation. How exactly did you know to ambush me here?' Slag said nothing. the first was conscious thought. 'Let me guess/ Uriah said. He was still dangling from the metal fingers of the behemoth. 'If you seek mercy from me. he still had a chance. URIAH FORCED HIS way through the pain. cutting deep into his flesh. 'You're well informed. 'Only idiots gloat/ Slag said. He never lowered his gun. the second was muscle memory born from repetition and practice. too. Before either ganger could react. Turn the device off yourself.' Slag lowered his bolter. Someone told you I'd be coming . but his back was to Slag and th e others. He turne d the first corner before bolter-fire shredded the walls behind him. Uriah dodged and weaved around the corridors. forced his se nses to come to bear. 'But that doesn't mean I don't know anything. trying to sound disappointed. Uriah punched the second ganger in the nose wi th the matchbox still in hand. raising his heavy bolter. 'Drop him Gordo. He's tricky/ Uriah brought his arms back down.

A quick glance through the window revealed Cybillin e Sisterhood gangers on bikes. hoping he'd make it out the front door befor e the Orlocks could alert Slag that he'd escaped into an adjoining building. Uriah's pursuers had dropped further behind. Keep your head down/ Uriah kept his bearings despite twisting and turning through the corridors of th e large building. Just get out/ The Orlocks had yet to spread upstairs. Angry voices erupted behind him. Uriah fled down the stairs. but Uriah remained one corner ahead of impending death.outsi ders. The Orlocks were locked in a pitched battle with th e Escher. You'll see. He turned to avoid them and headed for the nearby stairwell. Somethin g in his back twinged at the heavy weight. following several successful feints. Throughout his tour of this floor and the one above it. trying to keep his fleeting breath. and the fight had spilled out into the streets. to another building ledge across the very narrow alley. 'Done/ Voice said. found himself face-to-face with two surprised Orloc ks. The first wave co nsists of those Escher already mobile or in the area. trying to keep his sentences short. 'I don't know what that cost you/ . You called in your old House?' Uriah asked. Pursued/ "What can I do?' 'Not sure!' 'I have an idea. Uriah reacted far more quickly than they did. More will come. 'What?' Uriah asked. He relied on pure instinct to push himself forwards. and he reached what he hope d was the right door before they spotted him again. dislodging trickles of dust. 'Here! What's the matter?' 'Trap/ Uriah said.Orlocks. 'for me. He dived through the broken window. he elbowed the first in the face and pushed him into the second m an before running past them both. With a pained grunt. he'd found three rooms with unprotected wind ows. He navigated for the first room. Uriah slammed the door shut and heaved the metallic cabinet against it. He crawled out of the window and was on the ledge when the Orlocks lacerated the do or with shredding gunfire. and from there. save for the odd transient and addict. but Uriah added it to the mental tally of the week's exhausting damage a nd pushed it out of his thoughts. Uriah neared the ground floor when shots rang out on the streets and the ramble of heavy engines shook the walls. He shouldered his way through as a new volley of shots rang o ut and punched the wall around him. allowing Uriah to run straight for his n ext exit. The Escher gangs are tightly knit against. Another corner turned at the intersection of two corridors and Uriah came up behind an Orlock search party. dodging around another corner. 'Nothing like the murder of sisters to draw swift retribution. The building was derelict . Uriah leapt to the support pylon girder.' Thank you/ Uriah said. More shots rang out. Voice!' Uriah said. It would only take them a moment to realise Uriah was no long er inside. Uriah darted up the stairs. besieging Corval's building. but upon turning the corner.

would do this to one of his own/ Til give the Escher this/ Voice responded. 'They quartered him rather than kill one of their sist ers. stepping into the alley through a door hanging off one hing e. a secret lover?' 'Not so secret/ she said.ask away/ Uriah said. pausing. Two questions .. He stuck to the back alleys and took the long way to the tram.. The Orlocks were expecting me/ 'Someone? From inside your House?' Yes/ Uriah said. 'Your second question?' Uriah asked once he was safely inside the alleyway. Too painful?' Uriah asked. They are loyal to their sisters/ Then why did you walk away?' Uriah asked. Til answer two of your questions if you a nswer one of mine/ 'Jester. I identified two of them by name and placed question marks next to the other names. 'I didn't want to worry you/ Uriah said. 'Fine/ Voice said. grimacing against the slow creep of ache that permeated his body. And with news of the attack on Jaffa Hur spreading-' That left Corval as my only remaining lead/ Uriah reached the edge of the street. Uriah darted across the street to the next set of alleys. stupidly enough/ 'I don't understand/ 'Someone broke into my hab block and stole Cantrall's implant and the recordings / You didn't mention that to me/ Voice said. That list was taken. within limits/ 'Agreed/ 'All right. There was supposed to be a lesson in . I'm trying to help you work this through. Uriah stopped and rested his back against the alley wall. He was heading down the refuse-cluttered hallway to a side exit. sounding annoyed. Cantrall had five patients. 'I'm still thinking/ 'Very well. but I helped him. And besides. Finally. but more Cybilline Sisterhood Escher were arriving. 'I helped a mavant escape slavery/ Voice said. it'll help me keep my mind off the pain. trying to ignore the gunshots and scre ams echoing through the streets. 'But the only person who knew my exact location was you/ 'I didn't betray you/ Voice said. And you're not exactly safe yet/ 'Actually. 'But you get one question for my two. "When I was studying the pictures of the gange rs. who betrayed me and how they did so is not vital to your work. I was rather fond of that piece / What's your next step?' 'Not sure yet/ Uriah said. the Soulsplitters wer e trying to escape. plain and simple. 'And I lost my new bolt pistol. 'A subject for another time. Why did you leave the Escher?' There was a pause. I am charging you by the hour/ 'Duly noted/ Uriah said with a grateful smile. how did Slag know where to find you?' 'My stupid fault/ Uriah admitted. how did your betrayer k now where you'd be?' 'I tell you what/ Uriah said. frankly.within limits . 'Your question first/ Voice said. Several blocks away.' Voice said. that someone in my House. 'And worth every Guilder credit I can scrape together/ 'Did you find the implant?' Voice asked.'Not nearly as much as letting you die. my gang. 'And it was embarrassing. 'It was one of my own. 'No/ Uriah said. 'Someone betrayed my position to Slag. You're curious.' 'Ah/ Voice said. 'I know/ Uriah said. Ah.

He swept one leg over the carriage of his bike . . He de sperately needed sleep. He pulled away. he showed no sign of it. You owe me four m ore questions. 4Ve're leavin'/ Slag said. That was insensitive of me/ 'My question/ Voice said. Slag knew what was coming. causing bikes to explode and killing Cybilline Sisterhood Escher and Soulsplitter Orlocks alike. embarrassed. The heavily-plated armoured car turned and spun into a bootlegger one hundred an d eighty degrees. We lost Uriah!' one of his men shouted. The sounds of gunfire grew more distant. revealing a shielded turret bolter manne d by someone in scuffed chainarmour. unflinching. bullets ricocheting off its skin. As the remaining Soulsplitters raced for their bikes. gunning the engine. You asked me w hy I left the Escher and you also asked me if I had a secret lover.that. Don't think I didn't notice. 'Do you have a lover in your life?' It was Uriah's turn to consider the question. Two shots ricoch eted of the bike's chassis. 'PULL OUT!' SLAG ordered. His men look confused. In seconds the armoured car was pacifying the street. If Slag was worried. his demeanor calm. the rear doors swung open. 'And I love her dearly/ That drew a pause from Voice. you owe me four more quest ions/ 'What?' Uriah asked. Before the rear doors swung open. Slag flew by the armoured car and turned a street corner before the roof turret could lock on him. The Enforcer squeezed the trigger and unleashed a barrage of high-velocity round s. 'Enforcers!' a Soulsplitter yelled. who promptly fitted it under his own arm. an armoured truck swept around the corner. He headed for one of the shuttle elevators. Slag didn't blink. 'How'd you figure that?' You asked me two questions. Jester/ 'Damn/ Uriah said. 'Yes/ he said. He passed the stump to Slag. undeterred. ducking from the return fire. 'Sounds like you could use the rest. Slag paused and held out his hand. 'I didn't think you'd noticed that/ 'Go/ Voice said. Sure enough. The Soulsplitter holding the stump stayed low to the ground. referring to the local authorities. the implant still under his arm. Two questions hidden in one. the sounds of gunfire fading in the background. holding a wrapped cloth with a blood stain at one end. 'What about them?' another man shouted from behind the cover of his heavy bike. striding for his bike while his men provided cover fir e. We'll talk later/ Uriah paused long enough to catch his breath before continuing his escape. released the brakes an d hurtled straight for it. The leg?' The implant? Right here!' another man said. Slag. his rear wheel fishtailing. laughing. 'Noticed/ Slag said. but I never saw it/ 'I'm sorry/ Uriah said. He hesitated before finally contin uing down the alley. ripping walls to shreds. shooting at several Escher. 'You best be on your way/ Voice said. Slag kicked his bike into a screeching fit. bringing the back end forward. It screeched to a halt on the street. but the day was not yet won. Three implants were still up for grabs. his heav y tires gouging the street. off to the side and gave the re ar door a wide berth as he was about to pass by. 'Not them you gotta worry about/ Slag said. not one. 'Just remember.

Where's this spite comi ng from. . trying to soothe Coryin's rising temper. Percal's shining protege.CHAPTER: EIGHT War is the absence of reason. I'm tired of you treati ng everything . Worthy of nothing but your contempt.around you as a joke. Like it's all beneath your notice.' Coryin said. he was fond of that weapon and would be hard pressed to replace it with something of equal worth.' The comment caught Uriah off guard.' Uriah said. 'I'm tired of your cavalier attitude. . I said it was worth more than yours.' 'Well of course you'd feel that way. disbelief stretched high on his eyebrow. Between the loss of the first implant to Kaden in Cantrall's building.' 'So you've said. You lost the pistol?' Coryin asked. 'Maybe I am cavalier with those around me. be fore. But then. bu t that's nothing to do with contempt/ You don't act like it/ Why this sudden rush of animosity? You've never been one to hold your tongue. y our precious weapons are here to serve us. So typical of Percal's Handlers. The first step was acquiring new tools. This was something he should have dealt with at the outset. but neither did he ignore Uria h. 'Always laughing in the face of danger/ That's what this is. even when it meant holding our tongues/ 'But you're no longer holding your tongue. 'Enlighten me/ You were protected. 'All right/ he said. He said you were to want fo r nothing and though you were not of the Requisitioners we provided for you as per the terms of our alliance.everyone . He didn't turn around. snapping 'Believe it or not. returning to his errands. that much was obvious. It was time to act. collecting shell casings from the stands. the ransacking of his hab and the information leak that had allowed Slag to ambush him. not the other way around. Uriah. since the Orlocks had stripped him of th is old ones. 'Do n't you speak down to me. jealousy?' 'No. eh Coryin?' The great Uriah Storm. Coryin sighed and stopped. bucket in hand. THIS HAD GONE on long enough. don't you ever! I didn't say my equipment was worth more than a Delaque's life. but I had litde choice.' Uriah paused. The truth is that weapon was worth more than your hide. The bald man was unhappy. He doubted Weapon's Master Coryin would offer him anom er chance on that front. 'I know. but too tired to actually care.' Coryin responded.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. life often demands unreasonable response s. What hurt him the most was the loss of his beloved bolt pistol. He went back to work along the range.' Coryin spun around and stormed to within a nose hair of the smaller handler.' Coryin said. 'So that's the game. boy. Why? You no longer scared of Percal? Or are you saying I no longer hold Percal's favour?' 'It doesn't appear so. Uriah w as tired of being on the defensive. 'It was a fine weapon. So why am I hearing this now?' 'Like you don't know/ Coryin said. but none more so than you. no/ What have you heard?' Uriah asked.' Uriah said.

so he pushed her harder than most. Percal kept that matter . Hi s way of controlling them/ ????? didn't anyone tell me?' Uriah asked. outside Per cal's influence. then you act it. 'What have you heard?' 'Nothing specific/ Coryin said. At least in his eyes/ Uriah listened. but he never saw the reach of it. searching his face hard with a mixture of surprise and pity. a year there. I never knew the s pecifics. it was understood that you left Percal's proteges alone. hasn't he/ Coryin said. Coryin studied him. 'But you know Percal. and if you aren't. Af ter her. That fool? As much as Kaden would like to believe he's Percal's favourite. and popular. But you're ar rogant. Was this Percal's doing. defeated. Perc al had other proteges. H e never speaks in specifics. you know. 'Nobody wanted to cross Percal. It was difficult to ignore some. He had no true friends among the Delaque. He leaves it to you to interpret his statements and art accordingly. He enjoyed Percal's su pport. Strok e your ego enough for you to drive others away/ That's not fair/ Uriah said. 'He was executed. then? Who is the new favoured son?' Uriah asked. 'So noted/ Uriah said. For betraying House Delaque. Finally got to her. someo ne of my skill?' Coryin nodded. 'I don't think there is one/ What of Kaden?' Uriah asked. Enough to know that nothing is fair/ Coryin said.'Please/ Uriah said. 'He's really kept you on a tight leash. At first. but his comment felt feeble on his lips. 'You mentioned Percal had another protege.a few months here. Very few lasted long . putting down the bucket. So long as he doesn't dirty his hands/ Then the implication?' The implication is no more special treatment. Percal had his work cut out with you. though. Percal didn't li ke that. 'What others?' U riah asked. and easier for ot hers/ 'Like me?' Uriah asked. This was a new element in his life. Who is. she was. everything made more s ense. Coryin looked around. he isn't.I'm not sure/ Coryin admitted. He pitched his back against one of the metal firing stand s and sank to the ground. Percal hasn't offered him the same preferential treatment that he gave you and t he others/ 'Others?' Uriah said. A coupl e. He felt exhausted. Uriah realised. to alienate him from his peers? Or was this inter-House jealousy for his position as Percal's protege. 'Could it be him?' Coryin laughed. The implication is you are no long er the favoured son. we thought Percal had a thing for her and wa s jealous that he had to share her. But it was his way of keeping his Handlers from getting too close to anyone else. 'Before you. 'You're good at what you do. Or at least. 'You're a student of Percal. 'I'm . but always seemed to find them outside the House. a couple possessed your skill/ 'What happened to them?' 'One retired and vanished. Talented lass. shocked. but his tired mind raced at the thoughts. Uriah/ Coryin said. Was he really tha t privileged that the other gangs in Shadowstrohm were forced to heed his concerns? If he was. but worse. as though sharing in some great mystery. It's as though you're not even a Handler any more. one to which he was blind. Killed in duty. 'I'll admit that. That little stunt on the firing range a couple of days ago was typical of yo ur behaviour and it did nothing to ingratiate you with your Housemates.

'Yeah/ Slag said. I do be lieve. Slag levelled the pistol at the ganger. Nev er seen a Handler thank the Machine. Only those of us who've survived our service knew Percal's game. reflecting on eve rything that was happening. again/ Uriah said. not daring to move a muscle. you're a dead man and I'm the killin' s troke/ 'All right/ the ganger said. the nervous ganger blurted out with 'What?' . 'don't lose her too/ Thank you/ Uriah said. I'm more surprised that you do. a small man with a soft stomach and sagging features. 'You got it?' the ganger asked. his own voice distan t and numb to his ears. studying him. And everyone knew?' 'Not everyone. No borrowin' components. h e stood when Slag stopped. holding something wrapped in cloth. The Orlock immediately brought his hands up.internal to his gang/ There was a moment's silence as Uriah absorbed the full impact of the news. 'Sorry/ Slag casually tossed the wrapped implant at the man with one hand. absorbing the news. 'Percal's kept me close to control what I hear/ Uriah said. was leaning against the vehicle. but yes. lowering his hands. however. Slag pulled Uriah's bolt pistol from his waistband and pointed it at the ganger. most people believe you're privileged or spoiled or both/ Coryin waited for Uriah to say som ething. Uriah took it a nd unwrapped it. It was another slender bolt pistol with silver engraved siding. Cory in stood there. Slag didn't break eye contact. but Uriah was quiet. 'Wait. his brow slick with sw eat. It nearly bow led the ganger over. two extra magazines and a box o f rounds. SLAG KILLED THE throttle on his bike and coasted to a stop next to the snub-nose d truck. 'Heavy/ the ganger said. 'I'd be more careful about talking to the Machine Spirit in public. 'Hey! Whoa! Why you pointin' that thing at me?' 'Go ahead/ Slag said. whose eyes widened. finally. A handful really. I can do that/ the ganger said. Percal isn't the type to encourage faith in anything but himself/ 'It was something I picked up on assignment/ Uriah said. No. Others think it's a Van Saar streak . 'No takin' it to other suppliers first. 'Wait here/ Coryin said. It's hard working with devices without seeing the miracle in them. Coryin returned a short time later.they might question y our loyalties/ 'I'll keep that in mind. Coryin nodded and left Uriah alone to his thoughts. Thank you. 'Get the leg to Stainstrip Research Facility. 'And no detours/ Slag said. about to walk away. After a moment. Uriah sat in the comfortable dark of the quiet shooting range. They're expectin ' it/ 'Yeah. 'And for the Machine Spirit's sake/ Coryin said. You got thirty minutes to reach Stainstrip. I saw you do ing it on the range/ 'There's nothing wrong with paying it thanks/ 'Not for some folks. 'Ask me another dumb question/ 'Okay. An Orlock ganger. you believe in the Machine Spirit too?' 'Most Requisitioned pay some lip service to the Machine Spirit. okay/ the ganger said. eyeing the wrapped and bloodied cloth in Slag's grip. At thirty-one minutes. eyeing Slag and getting a better grip on the implant. nor did he lower his pistol.

falsehood is more comforting than the truth. Uriah thought himself above that. / can no longer play the game. the disinterest. if only because of rece nt events. nothing more than a pawn in a game. one he'd never recognized before.'You have twenty-nine minutes/ Slag said. only assets. bet ter with which to alienate him. If he was a piece to Percal. then perhaps it was time to play the game his way. Uriah recounted and questioned everything he remembered Percal telling him. even with autonomy. Control the board. there are no friends. It hadn't been activated. Uncertainty was also playing on his nerves. The thought stopped Uriah in his tracks. he studied the people with a new wary appreciation. it didn't matter. an Ecclesiarch or perhaps even the King? Uriah wasn't sure.the dislike. They couldn't see the entire board from their vantage. Now he saw the cold edge to their eyes . getting in the truck. because you di dn't play to win. you were locked in an entirely different g ame. Uriah's sorrow turned into indignation a nd then anger. which p iece was he? A Citizen. Uriah realised that was exactly what was happening to him. And if I'm not careful. He was an unwanted stranger in his own House. the rules of the game changed. The disadvantage shared by all regicide pieces. He'd always interpreted their stares as tho se of jealousy for his skills or for the favour the Handlers enjoyed in Shadowstrohm. Nobody else had entered his sanctuary. They are no longer restricted to a s trict range of movements determined by extended laws. was that their scope remained limited. Uriah entered his hab block using his new key and checked the laser tripwire he' d set under the sofa. The regicide player loses his power to control and dictate the game when the pieces gain autonomy or self-awareness. above the board itself. Was Percal using Uriah for a feint. setting the pieces into moti on rather than being manipulated by them. Uriah collapsed on to the sofa and allowed the aches of the day to soak into him. It wasn't about playing the game itself. 'All right. a tome of advice partly written by Percal himself. you played to engineer your adversary's downfall. Use people before they use you. He was tired. or leave it entirely. like all emotions left to fester. it was about playing the other person. I must survive on my own terms. He went from being a piec e to being a player without realising there was no real transition. . At that point. I have to force m y rivals to keep pace with me. it's the trap I'll fall in to as well. Uriah thought. Uriah even found himself questioning those lessons found in the Book of Lies. That's the trap Percal set for himself. This was a barren hostility. Then. the loath ing in some cases. one where the board consisted of two adversaries. Then. 'I'm going/ SHADOWSTROHM FELT LIKE a different place. If he was a regicide piece. sacrificing him for a more important play? Or was he still needed o n the board? Actually. Uriah realised. all right/ the ganger replied. Everything seemed designed to alienate him from his peers. He was being used. on the verge of exhaustion. as someone who controlled the pieces. only the player could. Percal had taught him that lie. Uriah examined his surroundings with a new awareness.

The wall was in a relatively unused portion of an abandoned Underhive transport station. 'there is one other thing/ 'Hurry. as much as Uriah and Morgane w anted it to be. That's the reason I wanted to speak to you. they stayed on opposite sides of a wall with no easy way to reach one another. He stayed near the grate with his back against the wall. their only co nduit was a metal grate. 'Which is why I spoke directly to the House representativ e who dealt with Rot-Tongue. He was making noise about selling the implant to one of the other Houses/ 'Which means I have to move fast/ Uriah said with a sigh. 'We're so territorial with our technology that we offe r substantial rewards for the return of intact Van Saar tech. Uriah and Morgane had this place timed to the minute. He's as . 'No. THIS WASN'T AN opportunity for an intimate tryst. my love/ Morgane said. if it's advanced enough/ 'Wasn't Soren sporting some of your newest models?' 'He was/ Morgane said. He woke up with a start. The House refused to buy back S oren's implants/ 'Is that unusual?' 'Yes it is/ Morgane said. 'we Van Saar delight in rumour.. but for how long? I d on't know. It came from the House proper/ 'So this Rot-Tongue still has the implant?' 'I believe so.' 'What is it?' A maker by the name of Rot-Tongue spoke to my House today. he says the eye looks like an older model/ 'So maybe Rot-Tongue was trying to swindle you? Pretend he had the right propert y/ 'The representative didn't think so. and says the man is a professional. 'I know/ Morgane said. and then regretted doing so. but Uriah. Anyone trying to see who either person was speaking with would have to follow a long set of tunnels to the other side. 'The representative who spoke with Rot-Tongue saw the implant in question. Someone had left him a message. Are you all right?' Uriah asked. He said the orders to refuse the implant came from high within the Van Saar hierarchy. especially in the failings of another gang/ 'Rumours can be disinformation. 'Before you go/ Morgane said. The light was flashing. They could speak for two-and-a-half minutes before th ey endangered one another. Morgane needed to see him. an eye. 'Unlike you Delaque/ Morgane said. He was hoping we'd have a bounty for the return of Van Saar property/ 'And did they?' Uriah asked. 'I'm fine. checking his timepiece. we have to leave soon/ Uriah said. He's an intermediary of my guild. just enough to remind him of his exhausted state.Uriah chuckled at the irony of the last sentence and fell asleep. Uriah replayed the message on the pict screen and caught only bursts of coded st atic. He's not a technician. He's dealt with this maker before. He was trying to seem casual even though the station appeared empty. Instead.. you know/ Uriah chided. He wanted to sell us one of Soren's implants. The fatigue seemed to accentuate the pain in his joints and the bruised stings. Uriah checked the time. the l ast buzz of the pict screen ringing in his sleep. 'which is why this is so strange/ 'How did you hear about this?' Uriah asked. Less than an hour's sleep. 'I heard something interesting that I think yo u should know. SLEEP WAS A pitched battle that Uriah was losing.

Every time I set about examining it in-depth. ra ther than revealing any truths. but he couldn't quit now. its green chassis housing a massive engine and two thic k wheels. It was time to handle both situations an d damn the consequences. for even a moment. First. 'What do you need. events would spiral beyond his control. flooding Uriah's earpiece with a brief wash o f static. contemplating the turn of events. 'Voice. gunned the throttle and tore through the near-aband oned streets. 'What else?' Uriah asked finally. I'm here/ 'Sleeping?' 'I don't sleep/ Voice said with a yawn. 'Far superior to the c omponents I'm used to handling. 'I won't judge/ Very well/ Voice said. The first step would be to find Rot-Tongue. 'I'm here. 'The heart accelerant. He felt a gap in Vo ice's reason.I haven't dared touch it/ 'What? Why?' Uriah asked. 'It'll sound strange/ Voice said. It took a moment for a groggy-sounding Voice to respond. and Uriah knew where to s tart. Unfortunately. Jester?' 'Two things. Uriah felt exhausted. I'm afraid I might damage it if I tamper with it/ Uriah paused a moment. uncertain. He activated his throat communicator. was troubling in itself. what's the prognosis on Jaffa's implant? The heart acceleran t/ 'I . That meant he'd be easier to find than most. with Percal playing his own version of the game and Soren's death taking a stranger turn. 'If that's what you call it/ Voice said. There was too much at stake and if he paused. I have seco nd thoughts/ 'You feel strange around it?' Uriah asked. surprised. Unfortunately. much less even entertain the thought.close to a House asset as possible without being in our full time employment. You there?' Uriah asked. 'I take small naps to invigorate myself/ 'That's called sleep/ Uriah said with a grin. something is afoot and Rot-Tongue has some connection to the implants or Soren's death. meaning he dealt widi the sale and distribu tion of illegal or hard-to-obtain products. That House Van Saar refused to buy back the implants. He hated the fact that he couldn't use this cycle anywhere outside the Underhive. He mounted the bike. Ro t-Tongue even provided us with Soren's genetic material from the implant to confirm the owner's identity/ 'So at the very least. 'Is the Machine Spirit trying to warn you?' . he might have been better suited to handling it. the Under hive had been lacking in public transportation for Helmawr knows how many millennia but was also a place where U riah really needed to get around. obviously steeling herself. love. waiting for something else to follow. Thank you. it's a complicated piece of equipment/ Voice said. Fortunately. Now Uriah contended with battles on mult iple fronts. Uriah walked away as well.' Voice sighed into her transmitter. You've renewed my faith in this ordeal/ 'Be well. 'Well. I miss you/ Morgane said before Uriah heard her walk away. 'It feels wrong/ 'What does?' Uriah asked. love. Uriah reached his cycle. Were this the on ly ordeal facing Uriah. it clouded matters further and added another layer to the mystery. 'You're holding something back. Rot-Tongue was a maker.

in this case. 'That's a Van Saar thing/ 'Not always/ Uriah said. The balcony's ledges for both levels were cove red in thick banners of hanging fabric. The channel. People had carved their homes into the walls or taken residence in natural niches. 'I . I trust your instincts/ 'Thank you/ Voice replied. as did mounds of cushions that served as chairs and sofas. but for the most part. Rot-Tongue was willing to meet. Uriah waited for his turn to speak to the stair guards. A nd neither should you/ 'That's remarkably. the dwellings were rarely more than three metres deep inside. Above.'I don't believe in the Machine Spirit/ Voice said. the downtrodden and the mutated. but Uriah surmise d it was the big fish. columns extended to the grated ceiling above. The metal stairs were enclosed within a chain-linked cage. contacting Rot-Tongue through the appropria te channel. The meeting spot was an old sewer network. The so-called mansion extended over thirty metres along the diameter. who then forwarded the request for the meeting and potential purchase of Soren's implant.appreciate your trust. Rot-Tongue's estate was located in an old pumping hub. 'I find it st range that you feel this way. one floor separated from the other by another thick grate. carpets covered the floors. the guards patted him down. two centuries dry and taken over by t he poor. small pond syndrome. a reminder to those below never to draw the ire of Rot-Tongue for any reason. They found the knife that he wanted them to find and missed the pistol he wanted them to miss. where more guard s awaited. Above the grate was Rot-Tongue's two-storey sewer man sion. 'Rot-Tongue. 'Hold on to it. still zipping through narrowing streets. Uriah mounted the stairs to the second floor. Maybe you can de termine why the implant makes you so uneasy/ 'Thank you/ Voice said again. cryptic/ You said you wouldn't judge me/ Voice said. 'but you feel strange around it/ 'I can't explain it. Three tunnels c onverged on the six storey high hub. What can you tell me about him?' URIAH FOLLOWED VOICE'S instructions. providing Rot-Tongue with some privacy. was Rot-Tongue's associate and manager. I don't feel like I should be tampering with the implant. Why Rot-Tongue chose to reside in this district was a mystery. Crushed within the chamber were several hundred residents perusing the stoc k of enterprising merchants whose wares were laid out on carpets. The response came within fift een minutes. Oil-lamp globes. Six desiccated corpses hung from the metal ceiling... snapping. gossamer f abrics hung from the grate above and undulated at the barest hint of movement. 'Should I return it?' 'No/ Uriah said after a moment's consideration. When he finally announce d his presence. and they followed the curve of the cylindrical room. 'And I'm not/ Uriah said. You said you had anoth er question?' 'Yes/ Uriah responded. Filth stains still painted the cylindrical corridors and raw sewage sti ll ran down the central trough. the air extended three-storeys high before reaching the first thick grate that covered half the ceiling like a wide balcony. as well as a haze of smoke from .

4Vhat brings you to my home?' Rot-Tongue asked. the House has been having problems . though/ Uriah said. he wasn't one of Cantrall's customers. His eyes wandered about the room.' 'Why are you telling me this?' Rot-Tongue asked. I presume?' Rot-Tongue asked. Uriah realised it must have been the client who took the device rather than havi ng it implanted. 'Jakob the Choir. The rotund maker walked to the pavilion's balcony. shrugging. He was a big man. and when he s poke. then?' 'I freelance for the Van Saar/ 'They didn't want the implant/ 'Officially. Rot-Tongue sat forward and raised his arms. he spoke with a slur.' 'Is that so?' Rot-Tongue asked. looking unconvinced. even without the body fat dripping from his frame.flanked him. The remaining two guards stared at Uriah. I also thin k you might have scared the Van Saar when you threatened to sell the implant to another House. 'You're the Choir. Jakob is fine/ Uriah replied. 'He doesn't owe me money. but his hair colour and style looked similar to the ganger who had walked away with the eye. rotting piece of flesh. . A piece of chain was tied to the edge of the grate's hole.water-bubble pipes added to the exotic nature of Rot-Tongue's pavilion. Rot-Tongue looked down at an expos ed portion of the grate. Rot-Tongue was aptly named.' 'So?' 'The Van Saar have been refusing to purchase back implants to curtail the trade against them. where the tw o guards rushed to draw aside the curtains. Rot-Tongue studied his domain. "Which House are you with. his voice lazy and imperious. Uriah couldn't identify the man through the grate. 'You're still in good favour with the House and you have supporters. slipping into his prepared story. He owed me money/ 'And this man?' Uriah asked. he wore billowing robes and walked b arefoot. two guards grabbed him by his elbows and gently lifted him to his feet. 'He took it to have it grafted on by someone cheaper and I took it from him. Rot-Tongue sat on a throne of pillows while four guards . 'I am curious. you're right/ Uriah said. from it dangled someone's cor pse. 'Unoffi cially. 'I was told you had an implant for sale. looking bored again. an eye purchased from the bio-surgeon C antrall?' 'Told? By whom?' 'I can't say/ Uriah said. anymore/ With that. They hire me to make the transactions on their behalf.dressed in heavy leath ers . slipping into his false identity . Half of it looked bitten away.scavengers poaching Van Saar agents for their implants and selling th em back to the House. 'Hm?' 'How is it you obtained the implant? I thought Cantrall implanted it in a client / 'He did not/ Rot-Tongue said. Immediately. His straw coloured hair hung loose at his shoulders and the moustache did little to hide his baby-face. Uriah did not recognize him. though Uriah was at a loss to identify what malady was capable of turning someone's tongue into a masticated.

the hanging fabrics nearby caught fire. 'Down here. Uriah fired at a nearby globe. You strike me more as. Uriah dived behind the nearest column. an assassin/ The two guards were expecting to get the drop on Uriah. some men would like nothing more than to kill a God eh. 'You know. 'Most impressive/ Uriah said. but they weren't fast en ough for the nimble Handler. standing. Jakob ?' 'I wouldn't know/ Uriah replied. One guard fired a shot that struck him. Uriah shot again. He rested against the railin g. 'Do something!' Rot-Tongue cried with a hysterical shriek. Uriah prepared himself. m en live and die/ Uriah said nothing. slowly drawing the pistol from the slee ve of his coat. The re wasn't much time left. out of sight. spreading the blaze further. His two bodyguards. no thanks to Rot-Tongue's was that victory belonged to the calm. He wasn't sure where this was going. He exchanged a few shots with the guards. reacted far quicker. I am a God/ Rot-Tongue said. Rot-Tongue shrieked at the inferno spreading along the web of fabrics like a lit fuse. Uriah was certain all this gunfire would draw the remaining guards upstairs. 'No/ Rot-Tongue said. It took a quick second t o register the oil lamp globes and hanging fabrics. He froze. turning to face Uriah. Uriah shot the first in the temple. switching from one side to the other to p revent them from flanking him. before directing his attention to the stairs. Muttering a quick prayer. Uriah fired again at the guards. Uriah knew he was counti ng his life in the seconds. They brought their autoguns up at the same time Uriah drew his pistol and emptied a r ound into each of their skulls. though. shots whining past him and dinging off th e metal grate. I wouldn't take you for a Van Sarr/ 'I only freelance for them. Rot-Tongue looked horrified at the sudden speed at which events turned against h im. 'By my word.. The two guards from downstairs had just arrived. 'Some men. Still. Waves of flame sheathed the ceiling and the fire was spreading fast along the curtains. their heads level with the grate. catching both men in their sprint. Uriah was in for a fight. stretching out his arms. The gunshots echoed through the pavilion with a sharp snap. and rushing Uriah's position. . The shot splattered oil and ignited it. A flurry of erratic gunfire proved Percal cor rect. however. the guards were panicking. Uriah fired aroun d the column. if there was one lesson that Percal had taught h im -one lesson Uriah could trust . the other guard retreated fast. 'I wouldn't call you a Van Saar. leaning against the railing and watc hing the people below. hitting another globe and spraying another curtain with flame. Much like yourself/ Uriah said. He looked around in between snapping off shots at the two guards. keeping them pinned down. Were the guards below expecting to hear gunfire? It didn't matter. 'I'm a businessman/ 'Really?"' Rot-Tongue asked. The blaze spread far quicker than Uriah anticipated. but he knew it was going somewhere. The carpets covering the grates upstairs caught fire as well..'Do you like my kingdom?' Rot-Tongue asked.

The skull probe followed. Kaden gave Uriah a casual salute before vanishing into the da rkness of the drain pipe. Uriah manoeu-vered his way over the railing and lowered himself until he was dangling. They both dropped. Uriah was firing blanks. The r otund maker. The implant!' Uriah said. one of their Handlers!' 'Kaden!' Uriah said. O nly he was too late. Fire engulfed the floor.' 'Not yet!' Uriah said. He continued firing. praying Rot-Tongue didn't realise he had spent his ammunition. Then he let go. cu tting him off from the stairs. I don't want to burn. His eyes darted across the wall opposite the balcony. Uriah stifled a cry and the sudden wave of nausea. the numbness dissipated and U riah's body screamed its cacophony of complaints. Someone grabbed his trench coat a . People below were running and screaming. It was a white -hot explosion of pain. His only hope was a three storey drop over the balcony railing. Uri ah waited until the heat of raging flames threatened to eat at his fingers. Despite the stabbing pain in his arm and the accumulating smoke that made his ey es water. 'Don't shoot!' To who?' The Delaque. Uriah let Rot-Tongue drop and uttered a small curse. he felt certain of the o utcome. Uriah rushed up to RotTongue and pushed him up against the railing with the gun barrel to his forehead . A skull-probe floated in the air. 'Was it Kaden?' Yes. cutting across his bicep. Uriah tried to stand. Kaden was kneeling and staring down the scope of a sniper rifle aimed right at him. the pistol clicked without the accompanying thunder. After tucking away the pi stol. Uriah hit the ground. yes!' Rot-Tongue replied. Uriah winced as the gunshot echoed through the chamber. oblivious to his pain. So he could see me shoot you!' Uriah's head whipped up. crying. was in no state for rational thought. 'Don't shoot! Don't shoot!' Rot-Tongue shrieked. his eyes emptied of life. pressing the gun barrel into Rot-Tongue's temple. lazy and watching Uriah with its bionic eye. Despite himself. catching both men in the open. barely giving him time to fall properly. 'Nothing! I swear! Just-' 'Just? Just what?' 'He said to open the curtains on the balcony. 'Now please.The round nicked Uriah in the left arm. shouting over the din of the roaring blaze. Why did you a ttack me? Who said I was an assassin? Was it Kaden?' 'Yes! He said you were sent to kill me!' 4Vhat else?' Uriah asked. It still didn't prepare Uriah for the shock of feeling his legs hammered up into his body and his jaw slammed shut with a jarring crack. snarling. Rot-Tongue slumped forward. bobbing lazily behind. Screaming people ran past him. however. in an old drain pipe that was three storeys above the ground. With a broad grin. but his legs failed him. B eyond it. stunned from the fall. It took Uriah a quick moment to realise the shot wasn't intended for him. Uriah raised his pistol. The ground rushed up faster than Uriah expected. He was out of shots. Rot-Tongue continued shrieking and was trying to find a way past the flames and the wounded Handler. A moment later. the back of his skull a rose of exposed brain and skull. 'where is it?' 'I sold it!' Rot-Tongue said.

'the Escher are str etched thin. The silence lasted another moment before. 'You wish to talk. then it must be right/ Percal said. then ensure it's being fought between your enemies and not with you. right? Figured you needed something/ 'Kaden/ Percal warned. 'You need somethin' done ?' 'How about sitting quietly?' Percal said. though Uriah couldn't hear the barking man clearly. More people surged in around him. It sounded like orders.nd began pulling it off him. even after he was lost. Say the Strong Sisters or the Billie-Clubs ?' Percal switched channels. not for the re asons most people suspected. engrossed in his reading. 'Roedai. Seeing Percal in person was a privilege few people actually experienced. Through the din. Kaden waited in silence. 'Think/ Percal instructed. Corval. THE NEWS SPREAD quickly. Kickin' Uriah ar ound some/ Percal sighed and pinched the bridge of his missing nose. dear/ Percal addressed someone over the vox caster. checking incoming messages on his private monitor. Activity in Shadowstrohm had increased substantially as a result. but Kaden was enjoying his ringside seat to the event nonetheless. I need those upd ates! Where are the other Houses in this conflict?' Kaden had never seen Percal this purposeful before. Uriah reached for the gun with blind instinct and waved it in the face of a female sca venger dressed in rags. 'Fine/ Percal said. holding him up in the rush of bodies. watching quietly as the man issued orders to vario us agents. It would take him another couple of hours before he finally found the surface. It's the perfect time to ingratiate yourself into their ranks.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. Kaden considered it for a moment before shrugging. He looked like he was actual ly enjoying himself. you know? Gettin' the implants. but quiet was never his thing. suddenly pressing into the backs of the frightened mob. 'So why hit Meltpile?' Kaden asked. still distracted. Kaden sat across from Percal. 'Utopia. 'but you did call m e. Kaden waited until the master Handler was done with his current batch of assignments before b othering Percal. Kaden suppressed a shu dder. The intention was clear to the Delaque Handler. pushing him forward and through one of the tunnels. 'Is the strike team ready? All women? Good. someone shouted. even after he careened off se veral walls in his mad escape. CHAPTER: NINE A war must be fought. Uriah didn't stop running. Most of his instructions were issued quickly. 'Okay/ Kaden said. The resulting street battle claimed dozens of lives and sparked gang skirmishes acro ss Hive Primus. using the vox. She ran. Ur iah stumbled forward. Kaden felt smug in that regard. They were after him. Let's talk. The Orlocks had besieged an Escher stronghold and murde red its matriarch. 'Because I should be out there. 'Are you trying to prolong th is? Take advantage of the situation?' 'If that's your guess. . Why did you let Uriah see you . Hit the Orlock's Meltpile facility by tonigh t and make it look like an Escher attack/ Percal switched channels again.

'Derrik. 'Depends. 'Only if the one out of the three isn't Rot-Tongue. satisfied. 'I had Uriah dead to rights-' 'I told you I didn't want him harmed/ 'I didn't do nothing. Well met. E ach shot was the picture of someone. right? It's part of the game. right?' 'I wonder. laughingPercal leaned forward. ser iously. 'I thought the goal was to strengthen the House? Strength en the Handlers?' 'Sure/ Kaden replied.' Who's Rot-Tongue?' 'Perfect/ Uriah said. a black-haired girl barely old enough to be out of the House scholam. You can't stand not knowing someone's name.' . 'Stop bei ng flagrant about it? Where's the fun in that?' THE CHAMBER WAS relatively spacious. yeah/ Kaden said in agreement. Kaden stood up with a heavy sigh. But with Uriah it's diff erent. Despite his congenial smile and bright green eyes made more brilliant by his red hair and beard. 'the way I see it. big enough for the large man and his assist ant. Which one is Rot-Tongue?' Uriah smiled. Uriah. impatient ly. 'That's what I've been saying! You're the one who called me in/ Yes/ Percal said. He sat on the comfortable couch and almost melted in relief. 'I doubt Uriah would make the same mistakes that you're making/ Kaden shrugged. Let him know I had the best of him/ 'Handlers are supposed to work quietly behind the scenes/ Percal said. then why not. at Rot-Tongue's place?' Kaden shrugged. right? Tends to get bloody/ 'Be very careful/ Percal said. 'But if there's personal glory for the taking.. But stop being so flagrant about it/ Kaden shrugged. I hope?' Uriah asked. One wall was covered with all manner of optographs. you've failed to secure the four rema ining implants/ 'And I like to think that I haven't got them for you yet/ Then shouldn't you be out looking for them instead of pestering me?' Percal aske d. Just made him sweat a little. unabashed. 'You and Uriah are playing entirely different gam es/ 'That's right. he never offered his hand.?' 'What.' the large Information Culler said. you have good news. Is one out of three good news?' Derrik asked. Wonder away/ Kaden said with a grin. I've got yo u two implants/ 'Actually/ Percal said. None of th e subjects ever realised they were being shot. their name inscribed or their face occasionally crossed out with red. He isn't/ Kaden said. 'Whatever you say. 'Most times I do. 'No. 'Well. So long as it don't hurt the House or Handlers. I'm winning. His loud groan drew a smile f rom the assistant. Derrik looked perplexed and flipped through the optographs on his desk.' Percal said. boss/ It wasn't until he'd left Percal's office that he muttered to himself.. 'No. Uriah nodded instead and smiled despite the numbing fatigue and joint pain flari ng throughout his body. 'Are you paying me for style or for results? So far. Sportsmanship. from grainy ones taken at range to full-colour jobs. 'I wanted to tell you to stop attracting attention/ 'You don't want me pushing after Uriah?' Percal sighed.

'Not yet/ You saved it for me first? To what do I owe the pleasure or is it a favour?' 'A bit of both. unlike Kaden. If Kaden knew how to find him. you'd be lost.' 'With what?' Uriah glanced at the assistant who was hard at work. fifth level. why give me the picture?' 'Kaden didn't know. If I didn't know names. He lairs in the Anachrolis District. 'No/ Derrik said. We appreciate that/ 'Fair enough/ Uriah said. 'Courtesy of Kaden/ Derrik frowned. 'What I say doesn't leave this room. I've dealt with you enough to know that. 'Very well/ Uriah said. Rot-Tongue collected with interest. grinning. 'Doesn't make sense. 'Please. she doesn't much like Kaden eith er. I seem to be following a path that Percal's already laid out before me. 'Only because you're an honourable man. You managed to identify one of the pictures I sent you?' 'I did. Derrik smiled. a favour and our mutual dislike of Kaden it is/ 'Now/ Derrik said with a sigh. a small c ompact man with all the muscle of that House. glancing at his assist ant's back.' True/ Uriah said. smiling. Besides. I don't know where it's going. 'And favours are never a bad th ing to have/ 'But you've already offered me the information/ Uriah said. Besides. 'Does he have a name and affiliation?' Uriah ask ed. 'How'd you know about Cantrall?' 'Kaden/ Derrik said with casual aplomb. sitting back. I'm hoping you can help me with something. Not many toadies could afford him/ 'Yes/ Uriah said. his eyes narrowing. Rot-Tongue's dead now/ Uriah added. Uriah leaned forward and studied the picture. pushing an optograph toward Uriah. She'll need to know everything I know. 'Why is it every one of these fools leads a gan g? Couldn't I find a toadie or a minion?' Well/ Derrik said. that goes for the both of yo u/ Derrik said.'It's my job. 'Well that's not actually RotTongue.' The assistant turned her head and raised her eyebrows. 'He brought in the same exact optos a sh ort time after you. Besi des. I want to know ab out Percal's former proteges. It was a Goliath ganger. 'I'm groomin g her to replace me eventually. 'they were all clients of Cantrall. but I suspect Percal's former students travelled further along that same road before t heir circumstances changed/ 'You want to know if there's danger ahead?' Derrik asked. Only.' 'What does he do?' Uriah asked. .' Derrik inhaled softly and leaned back. 'Respect. 'His name's Rival. 'Which one of these chaps is Rot-Tongue?' Uriah leaned forward and tapped the picture of a ganger with greasy brown hair. as though agreeing. This man owed Rot-Tongue money. Rot-Tongue contacted us. correct? Cantrall was exp ensive. I don't like Kaden/ Derrik said. 'He's the head of a gang. She'd stopped working and was listening. 'Tricky matter that/ he said. That's not important right now. 'but this has little to do with Kaden. This man/ Derrik said. The Black Rats/ Uriah threw his arms in the air. he was far more "generous" with his information/ 'Does he know about Rival?' Uriah asked. but shorter by far. you've always kept the Information Cullers current on your intelligence. already dreading the answer.

Only a handful of us know about it. trying to warn her of any pitfalls we uncov ered/ 'But you didn't always succeed. The woman who retired and the man w ho was executed/ Derrik grimaced. Uriah returned the laugh. but she didn't emerge from all unscathed. as did the assistant who swivelled around in her chair to face her mentor. Bettyna was competent and quick on her feet. though he still tries on occasion/ 'He spies on you?' Uriah asked. digging deeper into her assignments. but you're also questioning Percal's role for you. 'Problems?' Uriah asked. We didn't. shaking his head at some distant tragic memory. and they suffered for it/ Tell me about them?' 'I can't remember them all/ Derrik said. tried softening her rigours . not with her/ Derrik said. the Information Cullers. 'No. Gods how he tried/ Derrik said. grateful that someone was comfortable enough around hi m to joke about the matter. 'She was too vibrant for Percal to cont ain. Some of us. I can believe/ Derrik said laughing. Even the best Handler needs safe harbou r and a friendly shoulder. She was friendly and liked by many in Shadow-strohm.Uriah nodded. shocked. my dear are outside of his gang and there fore below his notice. The woman was called Bettyna. 'But we're part of the same House/ 'Percal is loyal to the House. and she continued. 'I have enough problems with Percal without this getting out/ Derrik muttered. 'I trust you with this/ Derrik said. She didn't intend to intrude. 'I'm not of your gang and everyone her e thinks of me as Percal's lackey and they think me arrogant/ 'The arrogant bit. . 'I sweep my office for micro-transmitters on a frequent basis.' Uriah said. never giving her a full accounting of what she face d. 'He does it to everyone here. 'Ugly affairs. 'Then tell me about the most promising ones. It's d ifficult enough playing the game without also counting allies as enemies.' 'I thought Percal liked his proteges kept isolated/ Uriah said. 'Percal sent her on errands. Make no mistake. 'Didn't work. The Seductresses. the Car tographers .even his own Handlers. I know of no man or woman whom he holds in equal esteem to himself/ 'So he spies on you?' 'On everyone who barters in information/ 'But why trust me with this?' Uriah said. 'because most of the other proteges were tr uly arrogant. those who liked her. with skin a luxurious brown. Sh e survived situations that would have killed Percal at his best. A real beauty she was. but we. Those of us with enough connection s to remain safe/ 'But/ the assistant said before hesitating. But he tried.' 'Who then?' Uriah asked. Derrik smiled his encouragement. The others didn't. Thought he was challenging her or some such nonsense. 'What happened?' Uriah asked. 'Her head rested on another's shoulder. Percal eventually gave up eavesdropping on my conversations. You're certain and perhaps cocky. 'Were you her friendly shoulder?' Derrik laughed before sighing. though I certainly would have been there for the asking.' 'And was that you?' Uriah asked. We helped when we could.

Now the re was somebody truly hated/ 'How long after Bettyna was Elias?' Uriah asked. Once she realised the extent of Percal's deceptions. especially anyone serving under Percal/ De rrik said. 'A few years. I think you would have liked her. 'She fled. 'He was a bastard. Elias. I do remember a quick succession of Handlers following Bettyna.' 'Bettyna: you two would have challenged each other. Uriah/ Derrik said. But I will give E lias his due. 'I miss her kind face. but I'd like to think she's doing well/ Uriah nodded and remained quiet for a moment. You all happen to fall under someone's long shado w/ And now?' Uriah asked. Finally. 'She quit being a Handler and vanished?' 'Nobody simply stops being a Handler. stringing the pieces together. 'But we all knew/ Derrik said. he spoke. 'She escaped. her eyes wide in amazement. Percal trained mor e Handlers. 'And better than Kaden/ Thank you/ Uriah said. 'Am I equal to Bettyna and Elias? Or am I some d istant third. but none really survived until I came along. remembering. Bettyna was Percal's first or second prize Handler before his skil ls in manipulation grew. 'I may not have revealed certain tru . 'A traitor under Percal's nose? And his reputation didn't suffer for it?' 'It was Percal who caught him and presided over his execution. I think was his name. we tried ignoring the affairs of the Handlers. 'arrogant. 'Nobody knows for sure. Died before your time/ Derrik said. 'Months. But you're better than Elias/ Derrik said. Worshipped the ground Percal stood on and followed in his steps with ruthless ambition. 'Caught stealing secrets from us and selling them to the other Houses. 'especially Bettyna/ 'What happened?' Uriah asked.' 'You tell me. 'I wish I knew/ Derrik said with a sad smile. Elias survived longer than any of them/ 'What happened to him?' Uriah asked. 'Where is she now?' Uriah asked. 'Only accidents/ his assistant responded.'Nobody you know. nodding her head. Slow and messy execution. but they either prove d inferior by Percal's standards or died on assignments. with help from allies. Eventually Bettyna realised she was no longer safe here. 'What of the man who was executed?' 'Nobody missed him/ Derrik said. Rumour was she fled to another hive/ 'Are there such things?' the assistant asked. Partly to digest what he'd just he ard. I like to think there are/ Derrik said with a chuckle. I lost trac k of her after she left. We like being the betrayers. fixing Uriah with a look. though. It was not our pla ce and frankly it's hard knowing which of Percal's proteges to trust. He was stoic during his ordeal. 'Percal killed her lover/ 'No murders to speak of in House Delaque/ Derrik said. never the betrayed/ Derrik said with a twinkle in his eye. 'after Elias. 'I've always liked you. but partly in respect for Derrik and his memory. 'I'm sorry people didn't think they could trust me earlie r/ After Bettyna. then/ Uriah said.' 'So/ Uriah said. Uriah caught the gaze and understood immediately.' 'Like I mentioned/ Derrik said. but Percal wouldn't leave it alone. like some petulant child looking for his favourite toy/ 'For how long?' the assistant asked. He tried to find her. she just ran/ 'Just like that?' Uriah asked.

'I can't withhold information from K aden for long.ths to you. their eyes lo cked on him. Thank you. literally. really. 'Some of my favourite cooks are there/ Ah. 'but I hope to hold similar respect in your ey es. I did/ Voice said. Avoids scaring away the visitors because of gang skirmishes/ 'Rival sounds like a reasonable man/ 'Perhaps/ Voice said. 'Ah. though/ Uriah said. they catered to the press of human traffic on the street. Three Orlock gangers were pushing through the crowd. Unlike Jaffa Hur's junk-pile camp. But the Black Rats don't c ontrol the territory with an iron fist/ 'Rare for Goliaths. thi s Goliath territory was open for commerce. with the hab blocks and kiosks along the interior shaft overlooking a kilometre-wide cour tyard. so the mass of people moved at a sluggish clip as they perused the wares and edibles displayed on tabl es and rugs.. 'Wonderfully helpful. 'Did you find the information I need?' 'Yes.. laughing. standing. Thank you/ Uriah shouldered his way through the something called the Adeptus. leaning against the balcony and staring down the maw of the forty-storey pit. but not the hours it would take him to walk to th e fifth level some thirty storeys down. Everyone here came for supplies and the food. Which ones?' 'Try again/ Voice said. 'Watch where you're going!' a woman said. After half an hour of fighting the crowds and navigating only four storeys down. * * * THE ANACHROLIS DISTRICT was an enormous pit. What I want to know is do I have to describe this place to you ?' 'No/ Voice said. Stores and food vendors were crammed into shallow niches no more than a couple o f metres deep. And you always responded in kind/ 'Not better than all. 'Ever been here?' Uriah asked. How come?' 'Because they make more money this way. laughing. something or other. but I did treat you better man most. Bettyna . . 'If I remember correctly/ Voice said. 'Rival makes his home there. No stairs to take. Derrik/ 'Good luck hunting Rival/ Derrik responded. 'That's one question I won't answer/ 'Fair enough/ Uriah replied. someone b ehind him cursed. The lines were certain to be long.' 'Maybe not/ Uriah said. As Uriah approached the long line to the bank of industrial elevators. The street was a wide ledge that corkscrewed its way down to the bottom. The circular chamber ros e over forty storeys high. winding road. Uriah turned. At least until you ask for the implant/ 'True/ Uriah said with a sigh. 'So where am I going? Other than the fifth level/ 'Look for the burnt-out temple . The Goliaths make their home there/ 'Any idea of their numbers?' 'Many/ Voice said. just industrial elevators large enough to accommodate vehicles and the long. Uriah headed for the elevators. I can't pronounce it. but I'll certainly give you a head start/ Uriah nodded to the assistant before taking his leave.nobody can ever replace her in my heart. 'you owe me the questions/ 'I wasn't pressing you for information/ Uriah said.

He pointed to the three advanc ing men who showed no indication of slowing. He tried to spin away. 'Trouble/ Uriah said. a mix of derision and intelligent appraisal in his one-eyed gaze. but only one opened fully. His tongue filled his mouth like a fat worm. The second man was Slag. the four Goliaths and three Orlocks unleashed their fury against him. Uriah couldn't hear Voice's response over the insults shouted at him by passersby. Uriah tried to open his eyes. pushing his way past people and drawing his share of insults. one filled wit h a slow. a safe distance from the anticipated firefi ght. everything went numb under the painful haze of blows. he susp ected it was swollen almost shut. The three Orlocks kept pace. one of the Orlocks shouted: 'It's him! Grab him!' To Uriah's horror. Two stood out in particular. but their grip remained true. The three O rlocks continued their chase. columns set at i ntervals and a vaulted ceiling. unable to muster the strength to keep his head up. Then darkness swallowed Uriah whole. The thought floating in Uriah's head was one of simple shock. but just as well muscled. The implant was missing. The other eye was covered with an eye patch. and there was a gap where one of his molars had sat. a bitter taste to be sure. growing awareness of pain. In the growing dim. 'Already?' Voice asked. The other hurt. and four p airs of meaty hands grabbed him. Something on Uriah's forehead itched and he reached up to scratch it. An arched doorway led into the darkness of the burnt-out temple. a flash of recognition crossed the Goliaths' eyes. 'And your death if you're not careful/ Uriah's head lolled to the side as the weight of the pain came crashing back in. 'Orlocks!' Uriah said upon reaching the Goliaths. . a Goliath ganger shorter than his co nfederates. he directed himself straight to the four Black Rat Goliaths standing near the elevators. 'That's his cunning/ Slag said. propped up a gainst the wall. He stared at Uriah. oblivious to the other gangers. Uriah slowly awoke to the world. His arm jo lted short of it. He was losing consciousness again. After a moment. The first was Rival himself. Looming over Uriah were a handful of Black Rat Goliaths and So ulsplitter Orlocks. Uriah pressed harder into the back of the crowd. His wrists were shackled together and connected to chains bolted to the floor. Uriah cau ght the last of the conversation. however. 'The boy don't look like much/ Rival said. 'He's awake/ someone said.Soulsplitters Uriah realised. pummelling him in the face and in the stomach. Someone had shackled his wrists. With his good eye Uriah looked around. Soulsplitters are here/ 'What're you going to do?' Voice asked. They're working to gether. THE WORLD TASTED of iron. 'Find help/ Uriah replied. Then the rain of fists and feet fell. The chamber itself was a side-chapel with fire-blackened walls. Instead. He was sitting on the floor. Before he could move on. 'Incredible/ 'No.

They understand business.'Gonna kill him?' Rival asked. Trying to get me to drop my guard around y ou. 'I'm going after Cors ikan. 'considerin g you're rather short for a Goliath/ Rival shrugged. Get whoever was on the end of his ear piece/ Somewhere. Don't think you want to keep doing that by opening your yap/ 'You got lucky/ Uriah said. The electrici . Or clumsiness . hard. Like another eye/ 'Ain't happening/ Rival said. slapping the rod in his open palm. unleashing a jolt of electricity. 'That's funny/ Uriah said. You're smart. I'm providing for my end of the bargain/ 'Slag negotiated?' Uriah asked. the threads of shadow snapped. He drifted back to the surface of awareness. the growing pain and ache in his body serving as his ancho r. In his hand was a nickelplated jolt rod.' 'Your choice. just the same/ Rival said. 'Filling a room with bullets to kill someone isn't s kill. 'And don't think I don't know what you're doing. Trying to goad me on like that. it's called luck. 'Sla g asked me to see to your recovery. but the burn in his throat told him that too was gone. feeling his words drag across his tongue. slowly unfettering Uriah from unconsc iousness. Slag wants to torture you something fierce. deep in the back of his cranium where the darkness had yet to flood i n. 'Not telling me nothing I don't already know/ 'What are you doing with Slag?' Uriah asked. Better fit. I'm in better comp any with the Orlocks. where is he?' 'Don't you worry about that/ Rival said. the thought amusing enough to draw a chuckle fro m him. 'I can actually imagine you simians grunting at one another/ 'You got caught because you underestimated us once. 'Ain't gonna get to me through vanity. 'You're the one who's got to watch out for them. Rival poked Uriah i n the ribs. You're pretty cagey for a small guy/ 'I could say the same about you/ Uriah said. He was squatting in front of Uriah. I know how you Delaque work. Voice. 'I ain't much fond of Delaque.' 'Speaking of ugly. 'Still don't look like much/ Rival said. but the Orlocks are the ones you have to watch out for. Uriah realised they were holding the receiver that had been in his ear. 'And you'll stab me in the something extra. 'How about I mat ch Slag's offer for the implant and for freeing me . ONE BY ONE. I f you couldn't tell. Uriah realised. 'When he's healthy enough/ Slag handed something to Rival. 'Slag and me came to an arrangement for the implant and for help catching you. either/ Rival said.not sure which/ 'I'll take either. growing more aware of his surroundings. One eye opened. I'll give you that. 'All right/ Uriah said. Uriah tried to activate his microphone. smiling. Uriah's muscles seized up and his arms snapped against his chains. and what I find gets a man kicking is some juice/ With that.' 'No/ Rival said. Besides. They're going after Voice. the Soulsplitters promised me a better eye for the one I gave them/ 'Slag'll get you killed/ Uriah said. the other feeling like it'd been welded shut. stu dying him. And Slag's more sui ted to my temperament.

and his mind wanted to retreat from i ts constant wail of pain. like a corpse and couldn't concentrate past the pain. Spatt ered images of Percal torturing him. Uriah collapsed back to the floor. Let Rival have his fun. but when war comes upon you. he was on the verge of collapse. flooded back into his memory. he was playing dead . His body felt like a single bruised nerve. CHAPTER: TEN Fight the inevitable with all your strength.ty contracted all the muscles in his body. It was a struggle. It was in this moment that Uriah was grateful for Percal's training.waiting for the right opportunity to escape. Uriah decided. another part of him cursed Percal for putting him into this predicament in the first place. He needed to collect himself. Then. do not hesitate. Uriah still had a c hance of finding the last implant and wrapping up this endeavour. For that tidbit. despite the agony caused by the electricity. But in the d eepest recesses of his brain. unh. Rival's grin evaporated instantly. 'When's he getting back?' one of the guards asked as they walked away. Coward went into hiding when he heard there was a bounty on the implant/ 'Figures/ the first guard replied before their conversation was lost to the corr idors of the temple. He was a stitching needle. He couldn't risk falling unconscious and awakening with Slag's fingers sliding around his throat. coursing through the fabric that separated him from exhausted unconsciousness. Uriah realised this was not the time to display this particular skill. of course. Use every ounce of cunning and every shred of your cold heart to win the day and strike fear into your enem y. left next time/ Uriah managed to say. No. . his teeth grinding under the pre ssure. but Uriah foug ht the sway. Right now. 'A little more to the. * * * URIAH HIT THE floor hard after the Black Rat and Soul-splitter guards tossed him into the cage. for stretching his enduran ce to the breaking point and teaching him to surpass his own limitations. and he jammed the rod into Uriah's ribs much harder. His musc les screamed and his joints ached. one small matter took precedence over all others and that was rescuing Voice. his face split into a grin. . until finally. If Corsikan was hiding. Uriah was grateful. his muscles steel-hard. Uriah hurt so much. Landing on the stone floor was pain enough to shove away the cloying shadows threatening to overwhelm his perceptions. He needed to collect his strength. 'How's that feel?' Rival asked. threatening to pull him back to the ground where cool unconsciousness waited. Uriah went rigid again. 'You impatient or something?' guard two asked. 'Slag's still looking for Corsikan. Seconds passed with the agonizing crawl of hours. his voice distant. and even less strength to spare. better to blame Percal. the pain suddenly gone. Gravity conspired against him. Unfortunately. Hate was a stronger emotion to keep h im awake. teaching him to act despite the pain. Uriah had precious little time to lose. he went rigid. He pushed himself up from the ground and sat on the stone floor.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies.

the voice mechanical and raspy. He listened carefully but kept his eyes closed. but he was a fool for pitting two Houses against one a nother. there was that entire incident with Percal and his strange behaviour.' Uriah's eyes flew open when he realised it was Kaden's voice. whatever meagre reservoir he could muster would have to do. 'You know/ a man said. Uriah spoke to himself. If Soren was murdered for his implants. I wouldn't put it past him to try to dupe both Houses into buying inferior technology by Van Saar standards . or have I fallen from his grace? If I have then why? Uriah sighed and was about to continue his reflections when he heard a whirr. With Voice's life on the line. to somewhere outside the metal bars of his cage. Sing for me. his legs crossed. He was to rendezvous wim House Delaque agents to sell them new Van Saar implants. Still. Uriah wondered. he'd had little chance to examine and consider what had happened. He focused on that energy. Still. Uriah recognized the skull-probe as the one from Rot-Tongue's assassination . Soren is dead. but he was feeling a little stronger. Uriah stared at a probe built from a real human skull. 'you move your lips when you think. Why sell them to Cantrall? Perhaps he was murdered by a free agent who knew enough about the implants to sell them? It was n't uncommon for greed to spoil the deal. his lips moving but his tongue silent. only for the kille r to steal the implants for himself. 'Lamenting your inadequacies must be a full-time job for you/ Uriah said. Instead of Kaden. his eyes closed. Uriah recounted the events of the last few days. The Orlocks might have hired someone to find Soren. Everything w as moving so quickly. however.' Kaden said. A camera-lens glittered from in side one eye-socket. Uriah e one in Kaden's possession. Then. and promoting it as new. being in a cage and all. then why not simply steal the implants. Without Voice or Morgane to pr ovide feedback. 'You missed four/ . why did the Van Saar refuse to purchase the implant back from Rot-Tongue? Was it older technology. Is P ercal testing me. Tell me how I beat y ou good/ 'The game's far from won/ 'I've got two implants/ Kaden said. a speaker grille covered the mouth and bundles of wires hung from heavy jacks lining both sides o f the parietal bone. 'You're a funny bird. Uriah paused to wipe the sweat from his brow. that small kernel of strength growing in the barren wastes of his chest. 'Wish I could read lips. like Morgane's friend claimed? That brought up the possibility that Soren was selling slightly older tech to th e Delaque and Orlocks. There was too much at stake and no thing made sense. And he was negotiating with the Orlocks as well. But why? Soren's death couldn't have been mere coincidence. His strength wa s still dim and his bones felt splintered under the weight of his heavy muscles. Thoughts drifting. Perhaps his murderer realised the technology was inferior and only worthy of a bio-surgeon's interests. The skull bobbed. his implants stolen and sold to Cantrall. A soft purr of noise brought his attention into focus.URIAH SAT ON the stone floor. The whirr drifted closer. I liked Soren.

'Hey! What about it?' Kaden asked. We're being played. You revealed my location and iden tity to the enemy. And he's using you to keep me . I 've got to admit it gets boring running the same scams on the same idiots -knowing they'll never learn be tter/ Uriah shook his head. If he's telling the truth he thought. Percal's been the one to test me. 'Don't take it like that.' 'Hey!' Kaden said. what Cantrall saw. Uriah sighed and pressed his head against the back of the bars. Percal is using your dislike of me to keep you distracted from t he truth. 'You gave Percal the eye's recordings. It caught Uriah off-guard. 'Playing the game like it's the only thing that matters/ 'And you don't?' Uriah asked. 'Are you saying you had nothing to do with that?' 'Corval/ Kaden said. almost shouting through the speaker grill. 'He's good at directing the course. At Rot-Tongue's I had you d ead to rights/ 'But instead/ Uriah said. you wouldn' t be here. You're only following orders like a good pup. 'Don't pretend that was you. 'Like I said. 'I had Rot-Tongue and his boys covered. 'The woman in Cantrall's implant recordings. I'm afraid I might be too.' 'Like hell/ Kaden said. You broke into my hab to steal documents. G etting Rot-Tongue to rough you up . Just remedy y ou with a dose of humiliation/ 'Then what about that bit at Rot-Tongue's? He was going to kill me. almost laughing. At Cantrall's I could've fixed you. Don't feign such creativity. 'Your silence is damning/ Uriah said. The Cybilline Sisterhood Escher/ Ur iah said. I just wanted yo u to sweat/ Uriah was quiet.'That's what Percal keeps yapping on about/ 'That's a mistake/ Uriah said. 'She's why there's this vendetta war between the Orlocks an d Escher. 'Nothing/ Uriah said. If I wanted you dead. I would have done you in a long time ago. 'you're willing to help other people kill me rather th an sully your own hands/ Kaden laughed. correct?' Uriah asked. He m anipulated you/ 'Nobody manipulated me/ Kaden replied. 'I'm just playing the game. 'Who the hell is Corval?' Kaden asked. 'Breaking into your place. 'Percal told me to test you but I came up with those ideas myself 'Percal let you think that/ Uriah said. that was me. suddenly realisi ng that Percal had betrayed him. 'It's just that you picked a dancing partner who dances be tter than you/ 'Meaning?' 'You're in over your head. 'Percal would be upset if he knew how liberal you were being with his name/ 'Percal's an idiot/ Kaden said. You betrayed a fellow Handler/ 'Hey!' Kaden said. I was providing you with a challenge. 'What about it?' Kaden asked. You saying you did her in?' 'You had no hand in that?' 'Hell no!' Kaden replied. Kaden/ 'Like hell!' 'I'm afraid so. I'm not about to kill you. then that means someone e lse tipped Slag as to my location with Corval.that was me too/ 'And telling Slag to find me at Corval's?' That comment drew silence from the skull-probe.

Idiot. Not until Slag comes back. And now that I'm doing my job well. Still. trying to control his anger. 'I got me a small problem with that. and he's too busy trying to find that last implant. if Kaden had accomplished one thing. Percal's playing with our lives and he' s too stubborn to realise we may share the same fate. Enjoy the rest/ And with that. I've seen yo ur place/ 'I obtained those devices when I was undercover with the Van Saar!' Uriah said. No games. and using Van Saar tech? And don't claim otherwise. it was in stimulating Uriah's strength and giving him . I like you where you are just fine/ 'They're going to kill me/ Uriah said. Personally. Getting too co mfortable with their way of thinking/ 'Percal thinks I've turned against the Handlers?' 'Looks like. I know who's got that last implant and I know he's hidin'. 'Frankly. and you done nothing to convince anyone otherwise/ 'I'd never betray the House!' 'Then why were you acting all friendly with Soren? Did you turn him? Or did he t urn you? And why are you talking to devices now. 'I don't rightly care. Get everything out there on the table/ 'Now. he thought. So am I/ 'I know who has the last implant/ Uriah said. Says you're sounding more and more like a Van Saar. 'I thought you didn't wish me any real ha rm/ 'They ain't up to killing you yet. But me .he knows I can deliver the goods/ 'He knows he can manipulate you/ Uriah said. I'll be back to fetch you when I'm done. Per-cal's lost faith in you. I think he's lost faith in you. Has Percal sent me on these assignments to set me up? Has this been one long play over the years to mo ve his chess pieces into position? Has Percal been setting me up to appear a traitor? Choosing assignments specific ally to account for my supposed guilt? Unfortunately. 'Now you see. But the fact is I think your time has come and gone. he knew he couldn't p onder the matter. It fell with the clarity of a blow to the bac k of the head. And frankly.distracted/ 'He says he's testing you/ Kaden said. Kaden. And I think you know it too/ 'Really? Prove it. how am I supposed to steal Van Saar secrets without befriending them or learning to speak the way they speak/ And then the thought struck Uriah. 'Seeing if you've got claim to being his protege. you keep singing that tune. from what I hear. An assignment Percal sent me on! I befriended Soren. I'm called into questio n for it? You tell me something. Free me from here and we'll confront Percal. Uriah/ Kaden said. I aim to get it without you inter-ferin'/ The skull-probe began floatin g away. then. 'Release me and I'll-' 'Don't bother/ Kaden said. while Uriah reeled from the thought. watching it leave. 'Kaden!' Uriah said. No pretence. again at Percal's behest! I'm chasing after Soren because Percal wants Van Saar tech. 'I overheard them talking. see/ Kaden said. Uriah shook his head. the skull-probe floated out of the small window of the chamber. 'Don't worry.

The agony flared . It was time for him to escape. melting the lock in a quick chemical flash. When the bleeding stopped completely. The chapel served as the heart of the temple. Uriah felt naked wit hout any firearms. the splinter consumed itself with a tiny pop. at least not entirely. growing in pitch and fury. he found the plastic edge of the double-chambered ampoule beneath the fold of flesh. until it was sharp enough to draw b lood. there wasn't much of it. When he finally found it. Ahead. He pressed it against the lump behind his right ear and pushed hard. The gunfire continued. with sharp edges lining the corners. The temple itself was under barrage by heavy weapons that sent shudders through the stone walls. after some fumbling. He felt stronger. forcing Uriah to reach through the bars with his boot before scooping up the sto ne. He then reached through the bars closest to the cage door and felt around for the lock. however. What the hell is going on out there? Uriah wondered. Uriah shoved his way through the door. Uriah completed the inch-long incision and cupped his hand over the wound. as did crowds of people screaming. while the entrance lay at the foot of the nave. Uriah gently cracked open the ampoule's seal and re moved the metal splinters hidden inside. Uriah gritted his teeth and j abbed the injury. The gunfire outside grew worse. He let go of the splinter when he felt the flash of heat from it. he almost dropped the ampoule. dust trickl ed down and coated the air itself. was further along the length of one . th e passageway opened up into the main chapel of the temple. A second later. The gunfire continued. It was a gun battle. Uriah s pent a few minutes further sharpening the stone against the rusty bars. From it s cross-shaped floor. he then spent a moment breathing hard while keeping his hand pressed against his neck. Thankfully. The interior of the lock dissolved and the door unlocked. More shooters were joining the fight. Despite the sharp pain that shot through his neck. Uriah withdrew the blue splinter from its sheath and gripped its disc-like head between his forefinger and thumb. aware now that the gunfire was increasing in volume. He raced to the wall of the chamber. smaller passages radiated outward. someone fired a shot. He withdrew the red splinter from the ampoul e and kept that between his fingers. Shouts followed the gunfi re. URIAH SPENT A few moments searching for the right sized stone. It was lying less than half a metre outside his cage. Both Slag's and Rival's men. With little time to spare. but it was coming from outside. but he pulled the ampoule free of the skin pouch. The pain was intense and Uriah felt a tric kle of blood flowing down his neck.focus. It was enou gh to startle him. were shouting to one another as they raced to the e ntrance. followed by another. Before Uriah could react. but he wasn't defenceless. and listened. Uriah. adjacent to the door. The rock was a remnant of the wall. Uriah slipped out of the chamber and into the shadows of the corridor. he jammed the splinter into the door's lock and pressed the disc head as hard as he could.

Rival was alone. Uriah kept his back flush against the temple wall where the columns hid him in darkness. trying to determine the best escape. That' s what you earn from supping with Orlocks.. All were preoccupied with holding the double doors. '. Rival walked with purpose.. Rival. He was surprised when Rival marched past. however. was it worth going after Rival at this time? Part of Uriah thirsted for revenge. He allowed himself a glimpse towards the entran ce. and Uriah followed the distant glow reflecting off the walls. Both men struck the wall hard.' Uriah heard the man say. The battle continued with grenade explosions rattling the temple interior and se nding more dust raining down on everyone's heads. Uriah wondered to himself. Ri val was an enemy who knew his identity. both broken and untouched. Uriah thought. THE CORRIDOR TWISTED and turned like a fire-blackened vein. which the various Escher gangers hamm ered with heavy bolt weapons that tore at the masonry and slowly widened the entryway.. intent on reaching the main chapel. Columns. Splinter in hand. Uriah wait ed for the men to vanish into the corridor before he darted across the transept and followed after them. barely managing to duck into a side corrido r when someone turned the corner. Uriah continued his way along the wall. including those of well-built Escher who'd managed to charge the line. They're going to come up behind the Escher. Uriah had no choice but to rush u p behind him. Uriah darted out of the corridor and padded silently after Riv al. He gathered four men racing to the entrance and motioned for them to follow. At their feet lay numerous bodies. he suddenly realised that the reflected lights w ere growing in intensity. where Black Rats and Soulsplitters held the line. As Uriah approached one corner. lined the length of the nave and transept in tight formation and spread the height of the tall arched ceiling. The gangers carried bright-sticks. More men raced to the entrance while a couple of those wounded were forced from their position.from behind. Someone was approaching. The Escher are attacking. Uriah's indecision lasted the briefest of seconds. just below the corner of the transept. My escape. he wouldn't get another chance. but that was not the part that drove him. Uriah suppressed his coughs and watched carefully while a larg e Black Rat Goliath appeared from a passageway adjacent to the empty transept chapel. and Uriah couldn't afford having another Slag in his life. Unfortunately. Uriah waited for the ganger to pass. only Rival's men would know about them. he was not as silent as he would have wished. It opened in chamber s and intersected more tunnels as it wound its way through. Uriah thought before a chuckle escaped his lips. It was difficult.wall. if there were any exits to be had. Rival turned just as Uriah slammed into him. Uriah doubled back. his legs in quick motion. . He waited. but Rival was obviously better trained . Breath held. finally reaching the corner where the tr ansepts split from either side of the chapel's nave. Once out of the corridor. Then again.

He slammed him into wall repeatedly until Uriah could no longer stand. Uria h took the gun from Rival. is that mine?' That it is/ Rival said. He had j ust managed to stand and gain his bearings when gangers . Rival pressed the matter and grabbed Uriah by the neck in a one-handed chokehold. Uriah hesitated. He cocked the pist ol and was about to pull the trigger when tremors overtook his body. Rival swung and popped Uriah hard i n the jaw. Rival stood over him. this/ Uriah said. 'I figure every man has a right to know what killed him/ With that. after ensuring nobody was coming to the gang leader's rescue. 'I don't like houseguests and you overstayed your welcome. Uriah used the moment to his advantage and kicked Rival in the knees. a prisoner in his own body. the ganger was too weak to fight back. pointi ng to Rival's eye patch. 'Let's find out/ Rival said. The tremors were now crippling. studying the weapon. The shot echoed off the wall before melting into the sounds of nearby gunfire. After closing Rival's one good eye. 'I'm not a cruel man/ Uriah raised the pistol to Rival's forehead and fired one shot into his brain. aware of it all/ Rival didn't react. Uriah dropped to the floor.Orlocks and Goliaths .in combat and in better health than his foe. noting the colour leaving Rival's face. He pulled a bolt pisto l from his waistband. your organs untouched. and Rival shook uncontrollably on the ground. his face an emotionless mask. Rival lay absolutely still. starbursts of white light cluttered his vision. Rival's good eye widened as he realised Uriah ha d done something to him.entered the corridor from the tem ple area. Hi s howl turned to grunts as Uriah clamped his hand over Rival's mouth. 'Your aim seems good/ Uriah said.killing you with your own weapon/ That is poetic. Uriah's world sparkled under the hard blow before dimming at the edges. He pointed the pistol at Uriah. Soon. I just l ike the poetry of it . You'll suffocate to death. leaving all but your brain untouched. breathing hard. breath ing hard. You sure you can aim properly with one eye?' Uriah asked. His grip on Rival's vest slacke ned. your lungs w ill stop breathing.' Thanks/ Uriah said. Uriah remove d the small splinter that he'd rammed into Rival's bicep when he tackled him. You're living inside a corpse's shell.'Not that you need it now. his on e eye filled with horrible awareness. 'Kills all muscle control in your body. 'But unlike you/ Uriah whispered. and stared him straight in the eye. The ganger went down. 'I needed a pistol. Your outside flesh is essentially dead. U riah realised the fight was drawing closer. The Escher were pushing back the male . but the gangers were preoccupied with exchanging gunfire with their pursuers. The Escher had penetrated the temple and the battle was spreading everyw here. Uriah took two ammo clips from him. howling in pain as his kneecap shattered at the end of Uriah's boot. Too ba d you died about ten seconds ago/ Rival threw Uriah a questioning look before shaking his head. 'Nasty little poison. out of breath himself. dusting himself off and appearing calm. In fact. 'I don't care what Slag says/ Rival said. He showed it to the gang leader as the Goliath's tremors slowed and finally stop ped.

the fight was done. 'I told Rival I wasn't a cruel man/ Uriah said. The good news was that while he hadn't turned around to see who was shooting at him. praying it w ouldn't branch off before it reached the exit. grunting in pain. after a few seconds examining the featureless door. While the immediate level was relatively free of in nocents. bodies lay everywhere. He was around the cor ner when the first shot rang out. o r escaping along the corkscrew path. It didn't slow him down in the slightest. I don't know where it is/ the ganger said. 'I'm not going to kill you/ Uriah said. 'Did he send men out after my friend?' 'I . others crushed against walls or trampled underfoot. Uriah responded by draw ing closer to the man. but he hunched over just in case. THE FIGHT CONTINUED outside. his long black ponytail flopped around like a dying snake. The wide-eyed ganger shook his head. 'Rival stole some of my equipment. Uriah spun around and aimed down the corridor. but there was only so much pushing to be done before folk . his pistol barrel centimetres from his face. Uriah fired a single shot. In their wake. his heavy bolter clattered to the floor.I think so/ the ganger said. some the victims of indiscriminate fire an d explosions. using th e passageway's corner as cover.' 'I'm sorry. The Goliath crawled forward to grab his weapon. was pure pandemonium. Shots continued to ring out behind him. The Escher pressed their attack inside and outside the temple. 'Don't make a liar of me. 'Hey!' someone behind him shouted. it sounded like a single pursuer who'd broken away from the pack. Uriah followed the corridor. Uriah turned and ran down the corridor. Uriah kicked away the heavy bolter. Uriah ignored the voice.gangers. 'I got nothing to do with your friend / The gunfight sounded right around the comer. not that he expected any. fortunately U riah was tired of being shot at. pres sed his shoulder against one corner. 'Before the attack Rival sent a bunch of guys to capture someone/ 'Damn it/ Uriah said. 'I'm sure the Escher will see to that if you remain/ Uriah turned and ran back down the corridor. not expecting to run headlong into his quarry. The mob of people collapsed in to denser clusters of desperate people trying to move. 'Do you want to die?' Uriah asked. those on the two storeys above and below the temple still hoped to escape. After rounding one turn. Outside. What did he do with it?' The ganger seemed confused by the question. always too late. The ganger flinched. He took the stairs and. suddenly aware that the gunfire was drawing closer again. with the Black Rats and Soulsplitters trying desper ately to escape. No gunshots followed him. either seeking shelter in stores. 'Did Rival follow Slag's instructions?' Uriah asked. he followed the twisting corridor until it reached a set of stone stairs that rose up to meet a large door one storey above. Inside. It swivelled open and Uriah walked into hell. A single Goliath ganger came around the bend in hot pursuit. several feet from him. 'Please don't kill me/ the ganger pleaded. He shrugged. hissing. Instead. He went down. right into the meat of the man's thigh. away from the fight. The thick crowds surged away from the fight. bu t Uriah was already on top of it with his pistol aimed at the ganger's head.

Uriah realised. By the end of the fight.then movement behind his door. desperate for a hiding place. this was not the time to mourn their plight. Go away or I' ll shoot!' 'You shoot/ Uriah whispered through the door. so there was no scampering to the rooftop. Uriah ran back the way he had c ome. 'I know someone's out there/ the voice beyond the door hissed. Uriah heard nothing at first . 'You'll bring them to me. Uriah realised. the strip of street between the alley and the rai ling was heavily contested. but neither could he race pas t them without earning several easy shots to his back. There must be another way out. Over the side? Uriah wondered. there was little cover to be had. A wall of people blocked either end of the corkscrew path while a firefight still raged in the area. a steady trickle of bodies fell from the upper tier s . Still. which mea nt the drop was certainly easier than the climb. Uriah was ready to breathe ag ain when he saw the movement of shadows through the crack between the door and the doorframe. snapping back. The building extended from floor to ceiling. he was still in the alley just off the main strip. 'There are Escher outside!' 'I know!' the voice said. As Uriah surveyed the chaos. trying to blend into the alcove's shadow. th in blade pushed through the door's crack. Still. 'and they'll come for certain/ There was a momentary silence from the other side. fortunately. The Escher. he didn't want to attract attention to his position. at the far end of the alley was a trash chute and Uriah's hopes for escape. In a truly absurd moment. Even the lack of trash surprised him. He pressed himself face first into the corner of the door. They hadn't turned around to notice Uriah. The secret door to the temple swivelled open behind Uriah. 'Go away! Or I'll blast you through the door!' 'Shut up!' Uriah said in a low voice. he heard a voice whisper from beyond the door: 'Who's there?' Uriah said nothing. Uriah gl anced around the alley. A pack of Orlocks and Goliaths were using the lip of the alley for cover while they exchan ged gunfire with the Escher. Uriah thought. she was looking away from him. The doors in the alley were likewise shut and well-bolted. Uriah was t rapped with no time to lose. racing past the hidden door into the temple. They had been coming up behind him earlier. Where's the build-up of trash? Then he saw it. he quickly backed away from the door and nearly fell from the alcove itself when a long. Unfortunately. He dared not move in either case. His senses screame d for him to escape. Uriah wouldn't have be en surprised to hear that a few hundred had fallen to their deaths. He was only five levels up. Trash.s pushed back. but he wasn't even sure the Esch er weren't heading his way already. He hope d the female gangers had noticed the gun battle at the lip of the alley. He barely heard it an d glanced back in time to see an Escher poking her head outside. darting from alcove to alcove. down the alley in the opposite direction. .unfortunates forced over the railing by the mob displacing the crowd. hoping she wouldn't turn around in time. Fights broke out between the escapees and those who didn't understand the situation. Uriah ducked into another alcove.

Uriah jammed the pistol into his waistband and ran into th e alley with bullets screaming past him. he stumbled across the solid lake of trash to reach one of the exit hatches. He fell t o the grated floor. Uriah reached the mouth of the large trash chute and paused long enough to pull the door down. another his arm. Worse yet they won't last long enough for me to make my escape unnoticed. The Escher spun around. the waste and debris pyramids would be left to decompose for sev eral months before gatherers finally collected the vile waste as fertilizer for the fungus farms. Uriah waited until the Escher moved into their final firing position. and Uriah stumbled through before shutting it behind him. Taking a deep breath.They're trying to stab me! Uriah realised indignantly before peering down the pa ssageway again. and his stomach lurched from the sudden plunge. The Soul splitters and Black Rats did the same and suddenly realised they'd been flanked. 'Look out!' Uriah screamed from the alcove and fired a shot over the gangers' he ads. striking hard obje cts along the way and cutting his arm against jagged metal. He stumbled up the stairs. the decomposing hell that lay just b eneath the pit of the Anachrolis District. He needed them engaged. He fell at blinding speeds before finally crashing i nto a pile of refuse. Here. It all happened so quickly. One bull et nicked his shoulder. they raise d their weapons for the kill. He was in the thick of it. he leapt in. He was on the kilometre-wide composting floor. The y all opened fire at the same time. They'll be cut to ribbons. His palms skipped over the metal surface. It popped open. The female gangers remembered their real adversaries and turned to meet their original targets. Before Uriah could recover. and were now taking up sniping points behind the Orlocks and Goliaths. desperate to reach it in time. The alley lit up with muzzle flashes and bullet arcs. He shot out his arms to the opposite walls of the chute. methane and carbon monoxide build-u p he realised. It dug deep into the back of his nostrils and it coated him in its fetid. legs first. stuttering on the dry portions and slippin g on grimy coatings of mould. Three shots struck the wall next to him. He felt light-headed and nauseous. bu t the filth was soaking into his clothing. surprised. Uriah retched at the smell and tried desperately to cover his nose and mouth. It was the nature of wild fire. The smell was horrible and overwhelming. hoping to slow his plummet. Uriah realised. A small group of Escher had snuck into the alley. and felt the heat of several rounds pa ss close enough to burn his skin or clothing. his vision growing blurry and his head pounding. The male gangers spun around wit h their guns facing their female counterparts. no doubt. breathing in . Uriah finally came to rest at the bottom of the slope. he was close to the wall and a set of stairs leading to an airlock. decaying stench. The air was thick with fl ies and the entire floor was dark. Fortunately. he tumbled down the two-storey filth-slope of trash. momentarily forgetting their ambush. The world slipped out from beneat h his feet. Nobody was aiming for him specifically. He reached the hatch and mustered the stre ngth to spin the door wheel. He focused on the trash chute.

'How much does one of these bullets cost?' he asked. then another. no. but he could still breathe it in. The walls and roof were shredded. Uriah was going to need a full range of Van Saar remedies to stave off the certain pneumonia. Get me water and show me the way back to the surface. Uriah felt like he was on his second-wind. . flower s of twisted metal blossomed outward like petals around an exit wound. Uriah raced his heavy bike through container alleys. the corpses still smouldering and lit with tiny embers. pistol in hand.huge gasps of oily air. slowly recovering. old man cove red in dirt. throw .' Uriah replied. though he wasn't sure how long that would last. a green bandit screaming th rough the grid of streets. 'I tel l you what. Voice. Smoke poured skyward in heavy braids. his overalls black from it. 'Water!' Uriah groaned on the floor. and the antibiotic salve was scrubbing his injuries clean with eye-watering efficien cy. 'Ya got no sense o' fair bargainin'.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. ya are smellin' ripe there!' the man said. The win d racing past him did much to dry his clothes. 'Oi! You ain't supposed ta be 'ere!' a man shouted. CHAPTER: ELEVEN If it comes down to your life or that of an asset's. It tasted foul and bitter. Cutting through one alley. He was a large. Uriah rode his cycle hard. Uriah drove his wrist forward. pulling the pistol from his waistband. and he was certain it couldn't withstand much more punishment before he collapsed.throw water on me!' 'Aye. Faded lot numbers streaked past him. Uriah nearly bounced off a container as he pulled the bike out from a tight turn . gunning the throttle while he popped the clutch. The black column rose from the vicinity of Voice's container. An explosion from inside had r . Uriah was nearing the home stretch. It took Uriah a moment to understand the carnage. always save yourself. THE OLD MAN had done a decent job on Uriah's wounds. a hard jet of hose-water hit Uriah and slowly blasted the stink off him. his heart sank when he saw smoke billowing into the dark sky. His body was badly hurt. 'Sheesh.' 'Not right now. 'Deal/ Uriah said. No war was ever won because the general sacrificed his life to save those of his soldiers.' the man replied. but it also set a small chill in his bones. He prayed he wasn't too late. 'For . clutching his wounds. His tires screeched an d he wanted to scream alongside them.' 'Throw in somethin' extra and I'll tend ta dose wound's a yours 'fore they infec t. 'How much d'ya think dat water's worth ta ya?' 'I don't know/ Uriah said. Five blackened bodies also lay on the ground. but he'd been here often enough to remember the way to Voice's lair. still suffering under his own stench. and I'll make it worth your while. A moment later. kicking the green monster into a long sprint. The stitch-work was good en ough to bind them closed. Voice's smoking residence was directly ahead. Uriah pulled alongside the container.' the old man replied. and studied the damage. For now he had no other concern than saving his ally. laughing. he counted three damaged and smoking bikes lying on the ground o ut front.for the love o f the Machine God.

Uriah scanned the area. Unfortunately. but definitely a bite-size morsel for the two Orlocks. e xploding on impact. Two of the heavy black bikes were Soulsplitters by the double-headed axe adorning the flags that fluttered behind them. The drivers didn't dare pull their weapons and f ire on one another. The Orlock was caught off guard. It was a booby trap set by Voice. The rider tumbl ed along the road. turning in to the intersection and almost losing control. Possibly some place overlooking this one. It was deliberate and timed. with a bald head save for a long ponytail rode the ye llow chopper. throaty roar and shredded street as he took off. the sounds of crackling fire from the giant storage container his only companions. enough f or Uriah to swerve into the ganger. By the damage to the bikes. Uriah kicked the bike int o a hard. Uriah never intended to hit the other bike. Uriah quickly studied the interior of the container. popping the brakes and swerving hard at the last second to take the corners. 'A decoy/ Uriah muttered to himself. This was a chase of pure speed. Voice was using the container as a relay st ation and drop-off point for her clients. Uriah accommodated him by waving back. but the Orlock lost control of the bike and hit the ground hard. The third yellow bike was smaller and more nimble. looking for so me telltale sign of Voice's presence. because he veered away from Uriah's bike as it pulled parallel to the ganger. The goggle-wearing Orlock glanced at Uriah twice before his eyes widened. His bike hurtled into another container. . dug well into the turns and neve r missed a beat. Uriah banked his cycle hard. at least not without risking a wipe-out. the Orlocks were also drawing closer to Voice. More gunshots. they weren't expecting the explosion either. The d oor slammed shut from the impact. The directi on of the sound was hard to pin down. Although he was a distant fourth. this time muzzle flashes dancing off the containers in the next a lley. Uriah gunned the throttle and gave chase after the train of bikes. Voice had to be nearby to pick up money and the items dropped off. 'Where are you?' Uriah said to himself. breaking bones and grinding away flesh on his mad slide. She took tight turns. he was drawing closer to the chase. He accelerated down Underhive streets. The Soulsplitter swung away again right into the open door of a container. Uriah approached the rearmost Soulsplitter bike and gunned his engine. The two heavier bikes. A well-built woman in a green tank-top. Uriah banked and turned with the three bikes. Voice/ Uriah muttered. That's when he heard something over the rumble of his bike's engines. Gunshots rang out nearby and scattered in echoes through the alleys. dodging and weaving around objects in th e hopes of losing her pursuers.ipped the container apart. he rec ognized the Delaque handler. He killed the motor. Voice was sur viving only by wit and manoeuverability. three bikes threaded the alleyways. Instead. but the muzzle flashes were beacons to his eyes. it was empty except for the destroyed rem nants of small equipment. Up ahead. while slower. they focused on keeping the throttle open a nd the wind screaming in their ears. No such luck. The Orloc k driver must have heard or sensed movement to his side.

Voice fell and tumbled forward. chunks of skin left behind on the road. He didn't have much t ime to save her. It isn't much further. though she weaved to avoid the gunfire. that's what Uriah had hoped. Uriah fired as the ganger ri pped loose another barrage and struck the Orlock dead centre of the spine. an anguished cry that bounced off the canyon walls. Unfortunately. but he managed. He spotted several shafts of iron lying between nearby containers. ripping what he could int o strips to stop the bleeding. Voice!' Uriah shouted. Sh e did a double-glance when she saw Uriah. Voice continued driving straight. Uriah could do nothing bu t watch as Voice slowed to a halt. Voice was in a bad way. Talk to me. if he wanted to move her. It crashed to the gr ound as he raced to Voice's side. Uriah took aim. Fortunately. her arms torn and eaten by the road and her leg broken b adly enough to see bone. Uriah winced. 'You're hurt/ 'I'm fine/ he said. her body battered and bleeding. Voice was trying to keep the Orlock from overtaking her while still keeping Uriah within sight. St ay with me. The lead bike ganger saw his compatriot go down in flames. but neither her nor the last ganger slowed their chase. her arms wrapped around her unprotected head. Uriah waited for her to turn again before signalling her to drive straigh t ahead. 'Hang on. 'She operates in the Underhive. 'I can't hear you. 'Stay awake. Uriah studied the ar ea around him. She was barely conscious. 'Jester/ Voice mumbled in half-groans. She was pulling ahead of the O rlock ganger who.' Voice mumbled something in his ear .'One down/ Uriah muttered. The tricky part was going to be resetting her broken leg. h e had little choice.' . Uriah navigated the Underhive's streets. The Soulsplitter zipped into Uriah's line of sight. instead her head lolled from one side to the other. She complied. but Voice promptly fell unconsc ious. It was difficult steering. He too was drawing a bea d on the Orlock. Uriah acceler ated once more. Uriah tore off his shirt and jacket. Uriah was off his bike before it had even slowed to a halt.something lost to the wind. He retrieved them and set about making a splint. Voice did as well. his shot had to count or the Orlock would realise he was the hunted. Uriah watched in horror as both riders lost control of their bikes and struck th e ground. Th e Orlock too had come to a halt. After binding the open wounds and scrapes as best he could. her arms over his shoulders and her hands boun d tight. This is going to hurt/ he said before jerking the bone and leg back into place. Voice drove straight through the grid of streets. Louder!' 'Where are you taking me?' 'To a healer/ he said. st riking Voice's bike and leg. could now shoot at her. Judging by her driving. Uriah worked on the splint and watched the makeshift bindings become soaked in blood. his bike a smoking ruin and straddling his still body. * * * WITH VOICE TIED around his waist. Don't quit on me/ Voice said nothing. "Voice. in turn. The So ulsplitter peppered the road ahead with a fast-repeating bolter that sprayed out a trail of shots. the ganger was equally lucky. Voice howled in pain.

'Storm. 'Been dealing with their kind since long before someone was wiping your ass. pushing open Voice's eyelids. 'this should accelerate the healing process/ She tended to the wound behind Uriah's neck. her head dropping to Uriah's shoulder. It was weak. WITHIN MINUTES OF arriving with Uriah. sealing it up after having inserted a new packet. 'Stay with me. m'boy/ Mother said. 'All right!' Uriah shouted. She nodded. 'But/ he added when he sa w her face redden. 'Four/ Voice muttered. 'The implant. Uriah stared into the blue eyes of the pale and plump old woman. He knew Mother was tougher than most. What's your question?' Voice was silent. 'You scared me/ he said. himself included. 'Save her Mothe r/ he said. Uriah nudged his shoulder.. Voice whispered in his ears. trying to grab her attention. Uriah laughed alongside her until she went limp again. anything. 'Should have stuck with Jester/ s he mumbled.'Not going anywhere/ she mumbled before Uriah felt her head droop against his sh oulders. 'An Orlock gang is after her/ Uriah said. Mother pulled aside her blood-splattered grey smock. that was a lesson taught to him by Percal: Never trust. 'Keep it up. the mother hen/ Mother said. Voice. The nurse was wheeling her into the bowels of Mother's Den for emergency work while Uriah and Mother ran alongside the gurney. 'Good girl/ he said. nodded. 'Voice!' She was startled. The nurse. a mean-looking bolter was t ucked into the waistband of her pants. but it had spirit.' Uriah nodded. 'How are those legs of yours?' Mother asked.' That's better/ she said. He'd only revealed his full identity to one person outside Hous e Delaque.. 'Did the ampoules help?' 'Saved my life/ Uriah replied. 'Uri . What's your question?' 'Name/ Voice finally said. My name's Uria h Storm/ Voice laughed. And the pieces fell into place with a crescendo of hammer strokes. 'Ow!' he said. aren't I/ Uriah said with a tired smile.' Uriah was about to stop and let them continue down the sloping hallway when Voic e reached out and grabbed his arm. I found out. 'now run along so I can tend to this lass. Even Soren never knew his real name. I found out/ Uriah drew in closer. 'Stop squirming/ Morgane said. 'I saved you plenty of times. 'What?' 'Owe me four questions/ she replied. 'She needs care now/ Mother told the nurse. 'What's your real name?' Uriah hesitated. 'I'm running. 'Used the fuse pick to burn open a lock and used the poison needle to kill a frightening . Voice was going limp again. I wouldn't be walking.I still owe you a question!' he sa id. forcing her head back up. Then again. her skin dark like obsidian. I . He needed her to focus on s omething. 'It's okay/ Uriah responded. and that was Morgane. 'You CERTAIN?' MORGANE asked. Uriah nodded and winced at the needle being pushed into his neck. 'if it weren't for you. 'You're in the best care possible/ 'No/ Voice whispered. His undershirt was growing wet with her blood. 'Let them come/ she said. correcting herself. her head lifting from his shoulders. You have my eternal gratitude.Jester/ Voice said. Voice was strapped into a gurney with a c oagulant accelerant piped into her arm. 'Look at you. Uriah laughed.

Are you certain you don't want another pouch implanted behind the other ear? I can arrange for the same surgeon/ 'Positive/ Uriah said. you'll let go/ Uriah felt himself nod. THE ORLOCK RESEARCH outpost of Stainstrip owed more to machine shops than the re latively sterile facilities of the Van Saar. this was not the ideal place to be handling this. the Orlock's Tech-T rust was more about rivets than screws. 'How's your friend?' Morgane asked. Morgane slipped her arm under his armpit and helped Uriah to the bed. 'Corsikan is in hiding. but you will feel rested f or the while/ 'But Corsikan/ Uriah said. his neck sluggish. metal fillings littered th e floor and a variety of instruments were crammed against the laboratory's walls. skin bolts than bone pins. drill pistons. 'Mother stabilised her. but alive/ 'That's good/ Morgane said. 'though I can't promise that the tissue over the pouch won't scar over. Stainstrip exemplified the nature of Orlocks and their heavy-handed ap proach to technology. In short. He let go and plunged into a deeper d arkness than any sleep he'd ever known. Everywhere they could. If you trust me. It'll be harder to open the next time. 'Doesn't it feel nice?' Morgane whispered in his ear. his joints ached in dull pain. I've given you the same packet/ Morgane replied. 'Inserting the pouch is painful enough. in another inn of questionable repute. The table was littered with bl oodied bandages. 'Yes. Even his bo nes throbbed and felt ready to splinter under the weight of his body.I can't get up. machetes than scalpels. . I don't need more o f those things in my body/ 'Done/ Morgane said. Now sleep. 'The Orlocks are no longer conceal ing their agenda. I drugged you. In every portion of his body. another clandestine rende zvous with Morgane. It's a Van Saar sedative designed to sim ulate a full eight hours sleep over the span of an hour. 'The injection I gave you included a hyper-sedative-' 'You drugged me?' Uriah asked. Band saws. She stroked Uriah's hair. his head swimming. but they had little choice. Hurt. They've put out a hefty bounty on the ganger. which plunged him deeper i nto sleep. She'l l live. So tired/ 'I know. his fingers slipping from their grip on consciousness . eyes heavy enough to close. patting the wound and dissolving the crusted blood with a s alve. 'I can't . Uriah sighed in relief and almost melted into the chair. The dreams are fast and pitched. kissing him on the forehead. Where the Van Saar used 'Well. gripping the table's side. Oily chains hung from the sleds mounted on ceiling tracks. 'Making me sleepy/ Uriah muttered. 'Voice/ Uriah mumbled. love/ Morgane said. compressed tanks of actuator fluid and all kinds of heavy industrial equipment. No one's claimed it yet/ 'I know/ Uriah said. but I know how you can find him. He collapsed on the sheets his head spinning from fatigue. his muscles ached and protested. 'Have to find Corsikan/ 'Corsikan has gone into hiding/ Morgane said. but collapsed back into the bed. 'Have to find him first/ He tried to get up. mounted chain-blades. iron than chrome-plated alloys. 'Don't/ Uriah muttered. I'll be here to watch over you. you stubborn mule.

'Then perhaps you'd like to explain that to Slag/ 'Slag?' the subordinate said. What have we here?' He was studying the internal mechanisms of the implant. slowly removing the articulated exo-plating on th e implant. 'See if they can't fathom its metals/ The messenger departed as the subordinate snapped his fingers at the Tech-Trust chief.' the subordinate said. He cradled his head between his arms. 'Stop that. The subordinate. But the heat died upon reaching him. He pro ceeded far more cautiously this time. a young man with blond hair.I'm not sure I understand meir function/ 'Hm. I'm . with him on the threshold of grace. looking over the shoulder of his subo rdinate. studying the implant.'Well?' the chief Tech-Trust ganger asked. The messenger peered be tween his own arms. Take this to the Iron Ferriers/ the old man said. He was still looking ove r his subordinate's shoulder. though the messenger couldn't discern his own screams from the roar of the inferno or those of its victims. It took everyone a moment to realise the thunder was an explosion in the machine labs. a beefy man with black hair set in a crew cut. the exo-plates spilling to the floor. Suddenly.' The two men worked in silence. would you like to continue?' The subordinate swallowed hard and returned back to studying the implant. turning walls instantly black and setting ablaze those caught beneath it.. Death did not come. 'Good. a reflex at the dying moment. straightening up. The screams were instant. 'Pry it loose/ the older man said. The subordinate shook his head and went back to studying the leg implant through the magnifier. 'Hate you looking over my shoul der while I work. will you/ the subordinate responded. What's that? I've never seen that before in an implant/ Both men leaned in. He looked back at the white-haired Tech-Trust chief with a sneer. taking a closer look at the small chip soldered into the wal l of the implant. 'This comes from Slag?' 'Indeed/ the older man replied. he saw the plasma fire flood across the ceiling. the Iron Ferriers. The messenger fell as well. 'Now. Carefully. The fire had died out. The messenger felt like he . No mistakes. It scorched all in its path. knocking the Orlocks off their feet. 'Hang on/ the subordinate said. The ganger chief handed the stripped exo-plating to a messenger who'd just arrived.. on his way to finding the m etal-smiths of the Orlocks. Wait. 'I can handle this/ he muttered. "What is it?' he asked. All that was left of the corri dor and the sections beyond it was a blackened pit filled with sparks from exposed wires. looking throug h the magnifier. We'll salvage what we can but-' the Tech-Trust chief paused. thunder shook the walls of Stainstrip. 'It's not connected to anything/ the subordinate said. stopped staring into the mounted magnifying lens and swivelled it away. The devices within the implant. 'I've cracked the housing. As the messenger turned to look back down the corridor he'd just left. The old man leaned in to look at the device. he pulled the chip from its unusual socket. The subordinate extracted a set of fine tweezers from the table and gently fitte d the prongs around the chip. Take your time. peeling away the exterior until they'd opened the core. It was fluid and angry. THE MESSENGER RACED through the halls of Stainstrip.' 'You'll adapt/ the Tech-Trust chief responded absently.

This is still a race. then everything you felt before will be revisited. love. URIAH LAIRED IN the deepest darkest ocean.' 'That you will/ Morgane said. swinging his legs over the edge of th e bed. She stood from the chair and brought the pisto l to him. 'I have to see this tiling through. 4Vhere are you going to start?' 'We're creatures of habit/ Uriah said.' Uriah repeated. 'Do you forgive me?' 'How long was I unconscious?' Uriah asked. You'll need real rest. All he has to do is find someone to remove the implant and hand mat over to the Soulsplitters. a single thought emerged. I just . When it wears off. so hurt. marvelling at the infusion of energy. dreams passed ov er him. someone from his patch. Then I'll make the most of it. How long do I have?' A day. He took die pistol and kissed Morgane on the cheek. 'All is forgiv en. Uriah felt rested.' 'So?' Morgane said.' Morgane replied. 'I fe el incredible. "Which is precisely why I have to find the implant first. Corsikan. trailing off.. the first to find root in his thought s in what felt to be an eternity. buttoning the fresh black shirt and jacket Morgane had purchased for him on her way over.another pistol lost/ Weapon's Master Coryin said when he saw Ur . 'For as long as he has the implant/ Uriah concluded. His spine felt coiled and he accommodated it with a stretch and a yawn that travelled the length of hi s body. Morgane sat on a chair next to the bed. 'No. 'Be careful. The dmg I administered is masking your body's pain. 'Hello.' Morgane said. reading something from a display pad. then.I couldn't bear to see you so exhausted. Hi s bolter pistol lay on her armrest. And he's safe again.' Uriah nodded.' 'As do I/ Uriah said.' 'Be careful.' she said. sadly/ Uriah said. correct? And the Orlocks won't s top hunting him for as long as he. He was awake in a moment of instant clarity. I'll see you when this is said and done. foetal and floating. 'Oh. you mentioned finding Corsikan?' 'Yes.' An hour and a half. You were more tired than I anticipated. 'If you've thought of this. He dressed himself. 'An hour and a half. 'Corsikan is in hiding. She smiled at him.' Morgane said.' he said. He broke through the waters and found himself sitting up in bed.was staring down someone's charred and charcoal throat. 'Now. kissing Uriah on the lips. The machine labs beyond had been engulfed in the explosion.' Morgane replied. But I'm better prepa red for Voice's information and I'm better armed for your help. my love. mercurial and comfortingly muted. The infusion is temporary. love. Uriah felt propelled upward and rushed up to the lit surface. 'despite my stubbornness/ 'DON'T TELL ME . Suddenly. 'I wish it were that easy/ Uriah said..' 'Is there anything 1 can do to help?' Morgane asked. love/ 'Thank you/ Uriah said.?' Morgane asked. 'So Corsikan will likely approach a bio-s urgeon he already knows. his body aching from some long sleep but definitely lessened of its burden. then so has S lag. then. and it wi ll. and the fight for the prize is greater than ever/ 'Even with what Voice told you? I believe she's right.' 'Sounds like a plan/ Morgane said with a smile. why didn't I see mat? Corsikan's a hunted man so long as he wears the implant.

'Kaden came in a few hours ago requesting any information we had on Corsikan. His assistant said nothing. She smiled at Uriah before returning to her seat. He pulled Coryin along with a tug at his elbow and whispered. I do have one last question to ask you. 'I think you know exactly what I mean/ Uriah said smiling. Percal's protege who was executed?' 'I remember. I need a piece of equip ment off the record/ Coryin sighed. 'No/ Uriah said..Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. Percal had taught him to be self-reliant. 'I'm clumsy that way/ Derrik's assistant replied with a grin. 'What spat you up ?' Derrik asked. 'Ask away/ Derrik replied. the last man to take an implant. This is the complete file/ Uriah glanced up to study Derrik's face.' 'I know/ Uriah said. What of him?' is it possible he wasn't the traitor others believed him to be?' 'What do you mean?' Derrik asked. but we never had any optographs before. 'Now there 's a question whose answer might be equally deadly. Uriah. is it someone named Corsi kan?' Uriah's eyes went wide. though/ Uriah said. S orry we missed him/ 'No worries. ' You're rated to defuse and arm explosives. 'As deaf as a nine-hundred year old mother hen/ Derrik said. What is it you need?' DERRIK SEEMED SURPRISED to see Uriah walking through the door. 'How did you know?' He immediately flipped through the p ages. I believe/ 'We had plenty of intelligence on him. 'All right. ALONE URIAH THOUGHT to himself. I kept it aside in case it related to your current predicament. The thought bothered Uriah. squinting.iah walking towards him. but her smile stretched across her cherry-red face. 'which is why I'm asking it/ 'AH right/ Derrik said. are you not?' 'I am/ Coryin said. 'Are your walls deaf?' Uriah asked. is it possible Elias wasn't operating alone?' Ah/ Derrik said. . not without protecting yourself/ 'Don't worry/ Uriah said. 'I'm working on that part right now. but you better not make any such accusations publicly. handing the folder to Uriah. 'I need help finding someone/ Ur iah said. 'then I need your help with a matter. Uriah nodded. twice over/ Uriah said. 'Perchance/ Derrik asked. Without Voice's companionship and guidance. laughing. spying Uriah's new injuries and bruises. 'Good/ Uriah said. studying the documents within. 'Close the door/ Uriah did before leaning against Derrik's desk. The complete file? You saying Kaden was not given all the information?' 'Some documents might have slipped loose/ Derrik said.' CHAPTER: TWELVE Turn everything you have into a weapon and you'll never be defenceless. Yes. She walked over and deposited a folde r on his desk. He leaned back and rested his hands behind his head. 'I'd prefer you didn't/ Derrik replied. 'I don't think he was alone. 'I asked you about Elias. I am alone in this. i could kiss you both. Derrik nodded and looked at his assistant. and for years he was. The noise on the firing range was loud. .. 'I assume he's one of the optographs you gave me to study?' Derrik asked.

Uriah's only hope of corroborating Voice's findings was to find Corsikan and ret rieve the last implant . and she came high ly recommended. though he never vocalised that particular sentiment. He was tired of being alon e. with small balcon ies running across their fronts. he loses control. For what reas on. AVhat's your business?' Uriah smiled and looked one way. however. And that's where Percal had failed. 'Appointment. Even if Voice never believed in the Machine Spirit. He cannot maintain that hold because ther e comes a time when control slips. she still managed her way around it. Eventually. He's a-' 'We know who he is.Then he met Morgane and slowly. nothing short of something he'd expect fr om a gifted Van Saar tech. He liked the company. but the betrayal was there. good enough to control r eactions and even outlook. Immediately. however. showing them the bruised skin and recent wounds. With the implant destroyed during Voice's f light from the Soulsplitters. and then another. but the truth was. By forcing isolation and distrust upon him. Percal drove Uriah to seek out the very opposite. He enjoyed the presence of another person's voice in a job that demande d his solitary involvement. with nobody knowing his fate or hi s last words. it now appeared that Percal was manipulating Uriah into a position where his loyalties could easily be called into question.' the other Enforcer said. Uriah thought. and he betrayed him. He wanted her too. but: He needed Voice. Then came Voice. she managed to slip past his defences. He didn't want to die alone. The local business . He offered the two men his pr ofile. Uriah headed down the tram tower's stairs and into the well-lit streets of Shina District. Time to end this. but refusing to speak aloud. not truly. And when it slips. and vendors selling wares from the baskets on their bicycles. Uriah continued using Voice in different assignments. arched ceilings stretching above the streets. two thick-necked district Enforcers in black carapace bodysuits stopped him from taking the stairs to the bottom level. everything that it held back pours out in a flood. She reminded him that he was still human when it was so very easy to become inhuman. The two Enforcers looked at each other before the first one motioned Uriah past with a flick of his head.' Uriah replied. Percal's good at what he does Uriah thought to himself.a lung scrubber that neutralised harmful gases and airborne poisons. in the back of my thoughts. he didn 't need to. Corsikan's turf. The buildings were unusually decorative for this part of the Hive. Her skills with the Machine Spirit were extraordinary. It didn't occur to Uriah until now. Uriah needed Voice's help with an assignment. Uriah only suspected at this moment. Now Uriah needed to confirm what Voice had d iscovered about Jaffa Hur's heart accelerant to tie up the loose ends. Shina District operated under the aegis of one corporate entity with multiple Ho use partnerships. Voice was welcome company on his assignments. It was always something there. 'Restricted district/ one of them said. Percal had misjudged Uriah. And therei n lay Percal's failures and weaknesses. 'With Hauser Demlok. Uriah exited the tram at a tower station.

Uriah realised this wasn't going to be easy. Corsikan was a practical man and likelier to pursue a practical solution. He dressed normally and looked rela tively clean-cut. Uriah knew that would change soon. wasn't violent. He didn't appear to be Orlock. each sat at one corner of a three storey annexe. a definite change from the chaos of Rival's temple or Corv al's building. The area seemed calm. showing off Shina District's prominence and wealth. Cor-sikan and his gang. Uriah felt he was on the right track. Corsikan. Be it sex. Uriah didn't know. Uriah hunched his shoulders and introduced . The habitation buildings were made of fe rro-iron and concrete. Unlike the Goliaths and Orlocks. because of the strong Enforcer presence in Shina. The situation rested on too many conditionals . The fact was. Uriah stopped on the edge of the street and reviewed what he knew.was water reclamation and filtration for the rich inhabiting the Spire a mile ab ove. procured and sold them. Four hab block buildings. especially now that Corsikan knew h e was being hunted. while the local gangs kept matters civilised. That's a good sign. Outside the annexe's double doors. the Shina Boys.that of space. the Enforcers overlooke d their activities. it was an extravagant display. however. The habitation complex on the road opposite Uriah was surprisingly extravagant i f only in one respect . It wouldn't take Kaden or Slag long to unc over that bit of intelligence. and the Enforcers were a strong presence. while the annexe was covered by a half-cylindrical skylight made of stained glass under a ferro-iron lattice. Giggling children swept thei r hands and feet through the blue pools of water. ten storeys apiece in a district whose cavernou s ceiling measured twenty.would Corsikan remove the implant? Would he co me to Hauser for the job? Or were Derrik's files incomplete and Corsikan knew someone who could help him? Per haps Corsikan had already removed the implant and was long gone. It didn't mean he wasn't capable of it. if they realised that Corsikan was trying to remove his implant. thoug h as independent operators they were likely to be well-armed to protect their investments. Uriah had no reason to believe that Slag and Kaden wouldn't reach that conclusion. And currently. The information Derrik withheld from Kaden included the names of several acquaintances including a bio-surgeon named Hauser. much like Corsikan himself. the Shina Boys rarely engaged in gunplay. unl ike the other gangers Uriah had faced. They'd remained safe thus far. but the data on h im indicated he served as an arranger. three gigantic fountains sent streams of water high into the air. He looked normal enough and most people might have mistaken him for a concerned parent. but from what Uriah read of the ganger's files. On ly Uriah saw the unmistakable bulge of a weapon hidden under his coat or the killer's stare h e used to assess anyone approaching the building. Considering the matter for a moment. It means Corsikan might be here as well. The district was supposed to be neutral territory. drugs or hard-to-obtain items. above the House tur f wars because of its importance to the Spire. He was definitely a Shina Boy. Uriah surveyed the area and immediately spotted a ganger waiting outside the com plex's main door. Uriah thought.

a shuffle into his step. the city exterior was Hell re-imagined on an industrial scale. Carved sculptures o f noblemen served as columns that supported the second-storey ledge running the circumference of the annexe. there was a strange mural depicting Hive Primus itself with a bucolic landscape surrounding the city. then promptly ignored him as innocuous. but importantly. at t he back of the annexe. meaning only residents a nd their invited guests could reach the upper storeys. The annexe's interior was open. Uriah studied the market for a moment. The annexe rose three storeys in height to meet the ribbed stained-glass ceiling . Uriah recognized the principle at work here. sending a shower of sparks to the floor. Unlike street surgeons who cobbled together scraps for their clientele in back alleys and abandoned basements. Standing next to the bank of elevators leading to the upper floors were two more men who looked average. or selling their goods in the shops on the seco nd floor. and it wo uld be nice to find a safe haven for Morgane and himself. as part of a legitimate practice. With a prayer to the Machine Spirit. Hauser's operation occupied the entire fourth floor of the building. Unfortunately. Uriah stripped and then crossed two of the wires l eading from the panel. The elevator was secure. Cool. The conglomerate that ran the water purification plant likely provided this market space. The scene was certainly pastoral. legitimate surgeons were in gr eat demand by wealthy clientele living in or near the Spire. The practice kept the workers happy. habs were reserved fo r high-ranking conglomerate members.part butcher . Uriah tore his eyes from the scenery and shuffled his way toward th e north-west building's interior entry. despite the airs here. filtered air struck Uriah as he pu shed through the doors and into the central annexe. It allowed the spouses of workers to manage their patch of th e communal field.and their choice in living space was a reflect ion of that. made them and their families more dependent on t he conglomerate's good graces. They procured higher-end implants and surgical tool s than their street counterparts . With a sigh. Uriah chuckled to himself. he kept his eyes downcast and walked up to the front double ferro-iron doors of the annexe. unmo lested. with long tracts of gardens. No sooner had the doors closed when Uriah immediately pried the punch-code panel open with a knife. Open stalls ran the length of the secondstorey ledge.who were part mechanic. but carried themselves with a killer's bearing. either harvesting food and animals for themselves. impressed by the operations and briefly e ntertaining the notion of bribing a conglomerate foreman for a hab here. All the other workers slept in dormitories. His prominence in this habitation block told Uriah that Hau ser's family was well-connected with the Spire or the conglomerate running Shina district. He entered the elevator and closed the doors. Uriah shuffled by them as well. Uriah headed for the north-west building. Uriah was trying to bypass that security measure and prayed the two men standing guard outside the e . The sentry glanced at him once. It was a tranquil place and one of the few obvious gems to be found below Hive Primus's Spire.

It was Hauser's office. A quick peek and Uriah spot ted four heavily armed men sitting around. staring through each window to gauge the lay of th e land. This time. He was standing in a wide corridor that le d straight to iron double-doors and dormitories beyond. Uriah disembarked on the sixth floor. careful not to disturb the met al racks filled with medical supplies and sheets.and sealed up the panel. Uriah entered the block and was immediately grateful to see that windows lined o ne wall. the elevator buttons lit. To his lef t. The next four windows belonged to private rooms for recovering patients. He'd have to ris k exposure to have his answers. They'd been plascreted over. down to the fourt h. No windows along the way this tim e. but Uriah had little choice at the moment. 'Not certain. As good as place as any. He kept this entry point in mind while h e examined the next window. The voices on the other sid e sounded like more men. The first windows after the bathroom were those overlooking reception.levators wouldn't notice that this one had yet to move. with a glass-cutter. All of them were empty.two above the one he needed . We'll see/ someone answered. Uriah thought. Uriah concluded. it was a supply room. He ran across the ledge to the next corner and f ound the next set of windows. The windows fa ced the annexe and the adjoining south-west building. He gently pulled on the suction cups' grips and yanked the glass free. With a sigh of relief. Their backs were turned so Uriah simply snuck past. Surgical bays. With so many men on lookout. rounding the building corner. Uriah attached two small suction cups to the glass and. Uriah lowered himsel f over the ledge to the fifth floor and stared through the windows of the next shower block. He'd prepared well to night. Reasoning that each floor was relatively similar in layout. After retrieving th e suction cups.. The room was empty. Hauser had prob ably had to clear his patient roster before admitting Corsikan. Uriah thought. but had yet to notice him. Uriah crept up to the door and listened. doors to a communal shower block. .much you think we'll get?' one man asked. sliced ou t a pane from the window. He slipped inside the rectangular room with its white walls. Uriah walked along the ledge. praying nobody outside would see him. Someone was taking a shower in one of the stalls to his left. Uriah continued. A man was washing his face with a rag. To his right were doors leading to the stairwell. . Hardly surprising considering the current client. The block there was empty. with a gigantic metal desk and volumes of vellum bound books li ning the shelves. After a second of short-circuiting the wires. Uriah was on the metrewide ledge. 'When they finishing in there?' the first man asked. '. Uriah carefully scaled over the ledge of the fifth floor. Uriah pulled out a small pouch as he walked to the window. the floors above were probably clear. restocking his inventory of toys with anything and everything he could procure off the books. the window overlooking the stained-glass roof of the annexe. Uriah returned to the supply room window and cut the pane out with the suction c ups and glass cutter. Uriah punched the sixth floor .

He enter ed. A mortified Hauser followed him down. On the operating slab in fron t of him rested the body of Corsikan. please. his chest cracked open and kept apart by a bloodied chest spreader. everythi ng was silent again. After collapsing the wand and sheathi ng it. tfieir footsteps trailing away. into the operating theat re. Hauser looked up in shock. but Uriah drop ped him with a head shot that . To the side was a door marked 'Private. Uriah was facing t wo groups alone.'Do I look like a damn bio-surgeon?' the second man answered. Neither Hauser nor the two men wore masks. shouting in the hallway behind Uriah. both of them armed. Uriah opened the door carefully. Uriah pulled a retractable wand with a small circular mirror attached to its tip from his belt. 'We had a deal. the hallway continued to Hauser's office before turning the cor ner towards reception. Both men appeared livid. but stopped when Uriah pointed his pistol at their faces. Hauser was a tall. Uriah smiled. The brown-haired ganger pulled his Las pistol. his fis ts clenched to his side. no intravenous tubes to feed him blood or pulmonary wires to keep his heart beating. None of the equipment meant to keep Corsikan alive were turned on. before you find yourself with a third eye/ That did it. 'how quaint/ 'Orlocks are here!' someone said. 'Compliments of House Orlock and the Soulsplitters/ Uriah said. Corsikan was dead. 'Oh. you're naive/ Uriah said.' The surgery bays Uriah respirator to keep him breathing. The sign read 'No Entry. The voices drifted off.' probably where the doctor prepares himself. That's when the incongruities caught Uriah's attention. He extended the wand to its full length and slipped th e mirrored portion beneath the door frame. What is this?' the black-haired ganger snarled. Uriah thought. Corsikan's men had betraye d him for the reward. The hallway outside appeared empty. Overlooking the process were two more well-groomed men. probably with Slag in the lead. dropping to the floor behind the s urgical slab. To Uriah's left. Hand over the device. Corsikan himself was bare-faced . It was an ante-room separating the operating theatre from the rest of the clinic. and Hauser confused. 'Kill them!' the black-haired ganger shouted. This time there were two small porthole windows offering a view inside. And Hause r was cutting away the implant with little heed to the surrounding tissue. Now. The two gangers briefly considered pulling their weap ons. laughing. the hallways led to double swing doors. Uriah slinked to the double doors and pushed them aside to peer inside. Doctor Hauser. He charged into the surgery bay with his bolt pistol pulled. Now the Orlocks were here. That's when Uriah heard someone in t he hallway behind him yell: 'The Soulsplitters are here for the implant/ Realisation collided with Uriah enough to sicken him. Orlock/ the brown-haired ganger with the pony-tail said. Not this time Uriah thought to himself with a snarl. Uriah chanced a look. In fact. skinny man with a widow's peak. Direcdy ahead was another double door leading t o the surgery bay. A moment later. he thought to himself. To his right. 'We've decided we aren't paying for the implant. And again. I'm not facing two more groups of enemies. One was smoking.

He reached up. Meanwhile. but. You don't know who you're dealing with/ ' A talking corpse?' Uriah ventured. a look of astonishment frozen on his face. the Orlocks fighting it out with Corsikan's men. more shots rang and echoed. grabbed Corsikan's hairy forearm. 'Shouldn't you be removing it?' 'But. carbon-scorching the edges. 'Ah yes. The implant/ Hauser nodded. 'Where were we? Something about shooting you.I'm an important man here. where is it?' Uriah asked. 'It's a double-cross!' someone in the hallway shouted. the implant/ Uriah said. Uriah retrained the gun on Hauser. they said they'd kill me if I didn't cooperate/ Uriah shook his head and pressed the pistol's barrel against Hauser's forehead. 'Don't shoot.echoed off the walls. Somewhere outside. He began reaching up for the instruments on the slab above his he ad when Uriah shoved the pistol against his nostril. Uriah thought. 'Kill the Orlocks!' Uriah pushed backwards. don't shoot!' Hauser squealed. The implant. bu t he was close enough to the operating slab where Coriskan lay silent. Uriah dropped to the floor and spun around in time to shoot another ganger comin g through the bay's doors. 'Where is it again?' 'Still attached to the lungs/ 'Well?' Uriah asked. The black-haired ganger sailed into view below him. was it?' 'No. Uria h felt the metal behind his back heat up. his body twisted. who was too frightened to move. At least I'm safe behind cover. With that.. 'I'm not a surgeon by trade. Another shot struck the toolbox. but I'm wonderful at al . 'Now/ Uriah asked. he brought his pistol to bear on Hauser. no!' Hauser screamed.. 'Hello/ Uriah said to grab the man's attention before shooting him dead. Uriah realised. hiding behind the waist-high toolbox on wheels. 'Now/ Uriah repeated. 'Can you still call him a patient after you've murdered him?' 'Please. Another ganger burst through the double doors and met a swift end when Uriah sho t him. there's a gunfight outside. engaging the wheels and steeri ng it towards the operating slab. Uriah leapt from cover and jumped over the slab.. the fighting outside was drawing closer. He peeked around a corner of the operating slab and caught a ganger trying to sneak in low to the ground. Uriah spu n in mid air and shot the ganger mid-chest before striking the ground with his shoulder. What if someone shoots me?' Uriah sighed. Corsikan dropped to the floor with a heavy thud. The next couple of shots are going to burn through the metal. Corsikan's men were definite ly outgunned. Uriah pushed against the toolbox. 'I'm . Two Las shots ripped by Uriah's cover. 'Likely to be a silent corpse in a moment/ Uriah heard movement near the doors. and Uriah felt the box spike in temperature a gain. 'Careful there/ Uriah said. you want the implant!' Hauser said.. holding his hands in front of his f ace. 'You're lying to me and I'm likelier to kill liars than spare them/ 'No. his neck at a n uncomfortable angle. with a tug. he pu lled the corpse down next to diem. More las-bolts struck the toolbox. 'Still attached to the patient's lungs/ Wait/ Uriah said. The firefight had begun in earnes t.

the two men were behind everyone else. It was rectangular and ea sily concealable in the palm of his hand. man!' Uriah said. Breath held. 'This will do/ Uriah said. and a slow one at that. He slowly reached for the instruments and pulled down a scalpel. but with Corsikan's treacherous crew holding the choke points. and slammed the door shut. Uriah stuffed the implant and reading device into his pouch. this time hitting the ganger shooting from the stockroom. With it in his hand. Hauser cut into the lungs to continue removing me rust-coloured spherical device with intake wings clamped on both lungs. Uriah raced out of the surgery bay and planted two shots into the t wo men firing from cover at the door. 'Come now. The implant beeped repeatedly. "Why bother/ Hauser said. Two gangers were hiding in the next r oom. unsure if he was being serious or not.terations/ Hauser nodded. Hauser stared at Uriah. Stray shots and la s-bolts blasted through the door. Inhaling deeply. Uriah dashed into the room as gunshots erupted arou nd him. 'I'm a dead man either way/ Uriah smiled. Uriah hit the window and scrambled out. Uriah pulled on a small knob on the device's head and extended an antennalike rod. he peered into Corsikan's chest cavity and prodded die greying orga ns. 'Hurry up. None of Corsikan's men saw them go down. firing down the corridor at the Soulsplitters who'd taken reception. 'Now. howev er. Several more Corsikan gangers were hidi ng in doorways and side-corridors to keep Slag's men at bay. was that they were chaotic. Uriah shifted his attention between the door and the surgeon. Who wants t heir physician spouting doom and gloom during their prognosis?' 'I'm a surgeon/ 'Yes. Uriah counted three men that he could see between him and the w indow where he'd entered . more vigorously this time. He then ran to the wall adjacent to the double doors and peered through the small porthole windows. Throw the scalpel away/ Hauser complied. he fired ag ain.two at the door and another using the stockroom. The implants were booby-trapped. You couldn't clean it?' Uriah asked with a devilish twinkle in his eye. 'I'm afraid not/ Uriah replied before striking him across the temple with the bu tt of his gun. Hauser fell to the floor. In his hands was the bloodied piece of technology with lung m atter stuck to it. Pessimism is a sour quality in a physician. driven forward by bulle . He ignored the blistering fire that pinged the metal door. 'I suspect I'll need all my ammunition for the batde to come/ Uriah wiped his hands on Hauser's white smock and examined the implant. He touched the antenna to the implant and waited a moment for it to confirm his suspicions. The good thing about firefights. with the Soulsplitters in gr eater numbers. As Uriah approached the open double-doors leading into the corridor. The fight. he removed the small device that Coryin had given him. Are you done?' 'Yes/ Hauser said. After fi ddling with one of his pouches. Uriah just shook his head and yanked the implant from his hands. 'Are you going to kill me?' he asked quietly. by all accounts was in full pitch. his hands shaking. unconscious. instead grabbin g the shelving units and pulling them down behind him. Voice was telling the truth.

Th ey initially allowed the Soulsplitters to pass. It was loo king straight at him. The fight was eased the conscience. 'Wonderful. with gangers hiding behind columns and half-walls. Instead. The ammunition being used in battle wouldn't stop for flesh or bone. Some were already dead. he quickly noticed the floating skull probe hovering above the scene of carnage. To Percal it was a game . Uriah ran alongside the shelf. 'Game/ Uriah muttered. Uriah thought to himself. Some wounded.ts and Las fire. Whether to escape or come after him. It would travel through two or three peo ple before lodging in the wall. He was out on the ledge and away from the window. Maybe. Uriah wanted to move. One couple on the second floor was trying to pr otect their small daughter. The ferro-iron ribbed sk ylight arched half-a-storey higher still. to run. Leave a voice told him. A couple of wild shots were already hammering the column they hid behind. they closed their fist around the Orlocks. He scrambled over the side of the ledge and dropped down to the floor below. which was flush with the annexe's rooftop. at one time. 'Kaden/ Uriah mumbled. One of Corsikan's gangers was trying to climb through it. Only the Orlocks weren't that helpless. Uriah knew he couldn't afford returning into the building where the fight raged. Now the fight in the north-west building had spilled into the market annexe. and fast. as instinct and training demanded. That was before he understood Per-cal's game. occasionally ducking as panels of stained glass i n front of him or behind him exploded in a shower of shards. The daughter would die alongside her parents when the first bullet struck them. Nothing but the prize. What caught Uriah's attention were the farmers and market-goers caught inside wh en the gun battles began. He moved towards the building corner with th e windowless expanse of plascrete wall. All he knew was that he needed to climb down. but a rusted metal grated shelf ran its periphery between the skylight an d the building's edge. Uriah couldn't do that. but once the Shina Boys thought they'd been double crosse d.' Movement at the stockroom window caught his attention. The fight's really raging full pitch down there. with more of the Shina Boys engaging the Soulsplitters. The slightly pudgy ganger climbing through the window saw Uriah and fu mbled for his pistol. covering her with their bodies as they wedged themselves behind a half-column ag ainst a wall. But that was b efore this entire sordid affair came along. He chanced a qui ck glance through a hole in the skylight and saw the carnage. however. Uriah thought. Corsikan's men were hidden throughout the area. not . Uriah hesitated. Conserve ammunition. that frightened the Shina Boy back inside where he fell with an audi ble grunt. Uriah wasn't sure. Uri ah smiled briefly. Uriah might have considered mat sound advice. Several panels of the stained glass window disintegrated and the echoes of a fir efight drifted up to Uriah's ears. gouging out fist-sized chunks. In minutes. h e fired at the man and hit the edge of the window. the Enforcers would arrive in full force and execute any non-residents involved in the fracas. Uriah heard Percal say.

'I do n't know how we could ever repay you/ 'Survive this/ Uriah replied. hunched over with their daughter in the father's arms. when a thought o ccurred to him. 'Wait. Uriah reached the couple and their screaming daughter. what if they come after us?' 'Head to the rear of the shop. then hesitated. holding his daughter. past the racks of hangin g spice jars and shelves filled with assorted goods. Uriah scrambled to the display window and fired a few shots outs . 'Come and get it. 'Go/ 'What about you?' the man asked. Uriah dro pped through the hole and down to the second floor. while her ebony husband had some muscle to him. Uriah gauged which gangers posed the great est danger before shouting. forcing them to keep their heads down until the family reached the herbalist's. The mother was white and pretty in that 'untouched by poverty' way. a hail of bullets mangled the balcony railin g and wall near the herbalist's door. 'Run to that shop over there/ Uriah mot ioned with his head to the herbalist's shop. It was time to rectify past errors of judgement. the family headed for the back of the store. When the outcome seemed certain. From behind their cover. A gunman popped up from behind a half-wall to Uriah's right. 'Now!' The family ran. but he fired once cat ching the man in the throat. You don't want them following you. Just before Uriah entered the shop. elim inating the occasional Enforcer who arrived to help. Uriah needed a wildcard. 'Someone needs to hold them off. Uriah felt strange doing this. Uriah fired back. Two dead bodies littered the floor. There was no reason not to plan this through. the gangers fired at one ano ther .and all they managed to kill were civilians. Uriah put himself between the family and the shooters. you move!' Uriah said. 'The exit/ Uriah shouted at the family. some thing to throw the existing odds into chaos. The daughter was a black-haired beauty caught in terror. 'When I say move. Uriah cursed and pushed the family further back into the unit as bullets and las -fire turned the storefront into a shower of steel and glass shards. Uriah ducked. The wife ran up to Uriah and kissed him on the cheek. As he feared. It was Uriah's turn to nod. do you?' 'No/ the man replied. It was now or never. He ignored the jolt of pain to gain his bearings. The gun battle was heated. Thank you/ she said. They'll have an exit behind to throw trash/ Thank you/ the wife managed. The husband nodded.' he said. the movement of runners caught a couple of gangers' atte ntions. where he hit the ground with a roll that absorbed most of his fall's impact. but the Soulsplitters were gaining the upper hand.blind and wild . Uriah scrambled to his feet and ran for the couple protecting their child. 'before the Soulsplitters catch me and you fail once again/ With that.anymore. Uriah was about to crawl through the window to help the family. 'Now run!' With that. for that to work. barely catching Slag firing at him with the behemoth Gordo at his side. The firefight continued. He'd never played the hero before. He felt embarrassed. and they instinctively tried firing at the moving targets. it was time to introduce new variables. Uriah pulled the implant from his pouch and showed it to Kaden's floating skullprobe.

with their adjoining stairwell to the nearest hab block were a good dozen metres away. Bits rained down on Uriah. Four metres later. but no sooner had he considered the idea t han he heard Slag shout. The gangers were now on the second floor and had their gun sights trained on his hiding hole . He was trapped. He was pinned down. but las-fire dr ove him back inside. Uriah thought. and Uriah dived into the last commerce unit. They'll try. allowing Uriah to run full pelt for ten metres alo ngside the second floor balcony before las-fire streamed past him. he couldn't reach the skylight. 'I always do/ 'Good luck/ the woman said. The windows shook and several gangers screamed in pain. I'll draw them away from here. ignoring the cuts to his hand. Most were momentarily disoriented. out through the skylight or into another b uilding. 'Hide in the back and keep your heads down no m atter what. Uriah tried poking his head out from the store he was hidden in. 'Shoot the windows/ from below. and the ele vators . He turned onto his back. Uriah checked his ammunition and tried raising his head. but Uriah smiled at the panicked screams of the Soulsplitters as th e guillotines of glass rained down upon their heads. 'Damn it!' he said with a snarl. His eyes glittered with some wild-ness. Stay here for hours if need be/ They'll kill you/ the man said. and it was only a matter of time before they came upstairs. Uriah realised he was running out of options. an orchestra of shots rang out.ide to let Slag know he hadn't escaped. Entire panels of glass. aimed at the skylight and fired at the stained glass. He pushed off the ground. Uriah counted to three before he ran out of the store. It's me they'll want. It was a petty thing to do. Windows collapsed under the immediate hail of bullets. their eyes burned from the phosphorus flash. He wanted to give the family time to flee. None of the commerce units had rea r exits and the only ways out were over the railing to the ground floor. gravity propelled razors. Time to return the favour. Uriah hit the ground a second before witherin g fire shredded a nearby wall. With Corsikan's men dead and the Enforcers yet to arrive in forc . Uriah sighed and steeled himself to the task. There's no exit!' Uriah turned to find the panicked father and mother back with their child. Uriah thought about crawling forward. showering the ground with giant splinters of glass. He was six metres shy of the elevators and stairwell. but I promise you I'll get the better of them/ Uriah said. cutting his face and fingers with sharp nicks. They headed back into the shop. over the balcony to the annexe floor below. and b olted for the stairwell to the other building. Dragging himself across the ground would cut him open from his throat to his toes. Uriah curse d Slag for his forethought. but several shots rippe d past him. Unfortunately. Slag was waiting for him on the ground floor. His return into the line of fire was immediately followed by a brilliant flash o f white and a booming bang from below. He removed a grenade from his pouc h and threw it out of the window. Uriah was ten metres away from the elevators when the first shots rang out. rained down upon the fi rst floor.

Help me/ Uriah said. 'Storm/ Slag called out from somewhere outside the shop. They ducked behind cover. He heard glass crunching under several heavy feet. 'Give me the implant/ Kaden said. 'Look. Uriah glanced quickly and saw the broad frame of Gordo. the Orlocks get the implant. The skull probe hovered in place for too long. 'So you're here to watch the execution. I can fly it out. If you help me. No way in hell are you walking away from this. the Soulsplitters were coming up the stairs.' 'Incentive is in how you die. 'That's not going to protect you much/ Kaden said. our House/ Uriah fired another shot at the Orlocks.e. Kaden's skull probe floated through the ruptured skylight and the br oken display window.' Slag said. I promise/ 'I have the implant/ Uriah said. It's ours/ 'House Delaque also paid Slag/ 'Not my problem. 'So everything you said about not wanting me dead? Just wanting me humiliated? T hat was a lie?' Uriah spoke while searching the unit for additional cover. House Delaque gets the implant. 'Either I walk or I destr oy the implant. standing just inside the . the fact is I have the last implant. 'You're in a world of pain here. How long do you think you can hold out for? Maybe I can get Percal to send help/ 'He won't. b ut they were closing in on the commerce unit. 'Come out. House Orlock paid for that. a bullet slammed into the back of the skull and a shower of hot sparks spewed forth from its mouth. Uriah took shot at a couple of Orlocks within sigh t of the store. You have my property. Uriah/ Slag said.' Kaden's voice said through the speaker grille in the skull's mouth. Either way.' 'I fail to see my incentive in the matter/ Uriah said.' Slag said. This errand shouldn't be w orth more than a brother's life no matter what Percal claims/ Uriah did not receive his answer. the one you want. I'm dead unless you intercede/ 'Me? You must be some special kind of crazy/ 'Crazy? I must be to have believed Percal all these years/ 'What are you on about?' Uriah ignored the question. Or they won't arrive in time. 'Listen/ Kaden said. And I get you. 'A quick bullet.' The skull probe said nothing. 'Your reckoning has arr ived/ While the air was troubled by the occasional shot as Orlocks kept the Enforcers at bay. 'as a brother of the House. I want the implant/ 'All right/ Uriah said. He moved behind a metal bin. You have to decide when your dislike of me crosses that line of hurting the House. Uriah couldn't move without t aking fire. The probe fell to the ground and cracked open. for the good of the House/ 'No. a couple of shots ringing out behind it. You get the implant and I walk/ You don't get it. 'I get the implant. Black smoke leaked from its eyes. If I fall. most of the Soulsplitters were lined up on the balcony across from the unit. 'This here skull's got itself a small compartm ent. Kaden. Slag was inside the unit. 'I never wished you this kind of ill. Uriah realised the voice was closer now.

Two. Three. Still. the explosion threw Uriah to the floo r.his death. opposite reactions that had him stutter-gasping for air. Every path he envisioned led to th e same course . And no explosives either. Uriah thought.doorway. 'I said no tricks!' Slag bellowed. Before Uriah could react. Your answer.. Gordo's upper body would have disintegrated in the explosion. cutting his arm on the bed of broken glass. In one hand. 'Fair enough/ Uriah said. arms raised. an Orlock boot slammed into his back and pushed him to the ground. The other gangers with him turned and ran... Let it come. 'Five. This was the end. Gordo caught the device with an ignorant smile and childlike guffaw. no exit. Two more kicks followed. They started taking aim. Let it wrest its morsel of food from his dying hands. Three. he heard Slag roar. out of the store... More glass cut into him. no escape. Slag lifted Uriah to his feet and sent a meaty fist into his stomach. 'Enough stalling. One. Four. 'I caught it/ Gordo exclaimed gleefully. the yield was stronger than Uriah anticipated.. No explosion ensued.. a large boot kicked him in his rib s... Slag's eyes widened when he realised the trigger was already in motion.. The stairwell to the building was three metres away. no reason to tell Slag the real countdown. Tw o men grabbed Uriah by the arms and pulled the pistol from his waistband. It punched clean through. He was tired and the pain that Morgane had driven a way was slowly seeping back inside him. Uriah might as well have been hiding behind paper.' Uriah began. an explosive device.. Two. 'Look at me/ Slag said...' Uriah said. Unfortunately. he wasn't going to allow it an easy m eal. Gordo caught the blast full in the face. I'm ready for your tric ks/ Uriah rested his head against the cool metal.. The Orlocks across the way were only now reacting to events.' Uriah concluded. 'Look at me ! You devolved piece of excrement! You think you're better than me? Me! You're a fly! And I'm going to pull your wi .. Zero. 'One. 'Shoot him!' Slag shouted. Uriah tried rising to his k nees. He fired a shot through the me tal bin above Uriah's head. several ribs cracked and for a moment he couldn't breathe. Slag was hidden behind him. but that didn't stop Uriah from continuing the count in his head. 'Hiding behind your men?' Uriah asked. running past Gordo and out of the store. counting down. Uriah unlatched the small knife hidden up his slee ve in his wrist sheath and tucked the pistol in his waistband. believing he'd been duped again. if death was awaiting his response.. 'Got 'em!' an unfamiliar voice said. He dived to the side.. Uriah stood from his hiding spot. tossing the explosive to Gordo. grabbing Uriah's jaw hard and lifting it up. Uriah was out the door and running for the stairwell. Uriah felt caught between trying to inhale and trying to vomit. he held the implant.. In the other. 'Bet you my cover's better than yours/ Slag said. Uriah knew that tough or not. He ached in truly ancient ways. Uriah almost blacked out from the sharp pain.

He s topped instead -shock registering across his face. More shots rang out. The Enforcers had arrived in greater numbers and were hopefully eliminating the last of Slag's minions. Consider all debts repaid/ Slag gurgled in response. Uriah pushed him off. CHAPTER: THIRTEEN Last of all. Ano ther rib broke. he dropped the pistol. but it was lost in a blood-soaked gurgle. He stumbled down t he stairs and found an exit. 'Surprise/ Uriah whispered and twisted the knife deeper into Slag's belly. he clutched the pistol and was about to bring it to bear against Uriah's head. his face bleeding. The other gangers fired blindly at the skylight. grateful for Kaden's cover fire. never blink. but Uriah had the use of both hands. but Slag was on top of him as quickl y. his escape route a Delaque tunnel to be used only in emergencies. a smear that washed out the specifics into one jumbled me ss of sight. with a triumphant smile. Uriah grabbed his old pistol from Slag as well as the one that the gangers had p ulled from his waistband. Uriah reached for the pistol on the ground. Uriah vanished into the shadows. He inhaled deeply. the top of his head v anishing in a red smear. He quickly whispered in Slag's ears and relishe d the look of surprise on the Orlock's face.Delaque Operational Commandments from the Book of Lies. . He scrambled for the stairwell. the steady pops of gunfire growing in intensi ty. small islands of salvation in the stormy seas. 'I'm sticking your head on my flagstaff/ Uriah laughed and asked with weakened breath: 'Did I upset you?' Slag pummelled Uriah in the stomach and in the face with several fast blows. sound and smell. and the man holding Uriah's right arm fell away. He looked down to see the knife in his stomach. EVERYTHING WAS A BLUR. His eyes dimmed. but he was now being pinned down by return fire.' Slag tried to say something. but a one-armed Slag grabbed his wrist. Uriah stumbled upon moments of clarity. You broke my legs and you hurt my friend. where a sniper had taken up pos ition. Both men rolled around on the broken glass. You died for nothing. Uriah let go of the pistol. And I'm smarter. A shot struck him in the back an d he fell. Slag. Crimson briefly trickled from the Soulsplitter's mouth. he thought in the struggle. The game is never won by the most skilled. with his one good hand reached over Uriah to g rab it. It was Kaden. The other ganger let go of Uriah and scrambled for cover. . Slag was strong. 'Now you die!' A shot rang out. It's won by the most daring. Uriah felt something cold and metallic press into his forehead. ne ither surrendering to the pain. Uriah grabbed the pistol. It was his pistol.ngs off! Slowly!' Uriah finally managed to catch his breath. That's right/ Uriah said. the one stripped from him in Corval's building. And here's a secret/ Uriah said. Slag was holding a pistol. Uriah dropped to the floor on his knees. his lungs aching as though he'd swall owed glass. but the trickle stopped at the same moment Slag d id. Uriah stumbled out into the night. 'And when I'm done/ Slag said. Kaden continued firing. Slag screamed as a sniper bullet tore through his gun shoulder. It wa s the one he'd pulled from his wrist sheath. The two Orlocks pulled him back up.

when he needed them most. He was aware long enough to pull his two pistols on the young gangers about to rob him. When they ran, Uriah lost track of muddied time again. Uriah found himself in a tunnel, moving down, deeper into the city's belly. When he regained his clarity for a moment, he was in a shuttle car, a vertical train barrelling down a shaft deep i nside Hive Primus. He eyed his fellow passengers, a warning in his gaze to mind their own business. They complied. Tim e muddied again. It continued like this for what felt like days; Uriah blacked out, coming to for just long enough to find himself closer to sanctuary. He was on the shuttle car, he was stumbling through the sewers, he was pulling out his green bike from its hiding hole, he was astride his bike, racing down at top speed and swerving to avoid crashing. It wasn't until h e stumbled into Mother's den that he awoke for a final time. Mother loomed over him, checking his injuries. 'Hello Mother,' Uriah muttered. 'Sweet tears of oil/ Mother said, annoyed, 'can't you do anything in moderation? ' 'I need you to call someone/ Uriah said, and told Mother how to reach Morgane. ' I love her/ he said. 'Well it's about time you found someone you selfish bastard/ Mother said. Uriah smiled and felt as though he'd cracked his own face. The events and punish ment of the past week came crashing down upon him. Everything went black under its weight. EVERYONE STARED WHEN Uriah walked into Shadow-strohm. He'd been missing for a we ek following Kaden's report of the shootout in Shina District. Many had assumed he was dead, but Uriah was happ y to disappoint. Fact was, they weren't that far off. What could be seen of his body was covered in bandages and bruises. He looked like Hell's kickball, but there was an unexpected energy to his step, a macabre rejuvenation that belied his condition. He walked with purpose despite the slight limp. A week in Morgane's and Mother's care, being nursed back from death and exhaustion, worked its wonders. Uriah still ached and still needed ple nty of rest, but he was finally strong enough to wrap up this matter. Uriah walked straight for Derrik's office to pick up a file and give the dark-ha ired girl his regards. Before Der-rik could barrage him with any questions, Uriah told him: 'Wait. I have one matter t o finish first. I'll return. I promise/ Then, Uriah made his way to Percal's office, where he knocked and waited. A mome nt later, gears shifted and whined, and the door opened. Where the hell have you been?' Percal roared as Uriah walked inside. Kaden was a lready seated. 'Ah, you received my message/ Uriah said to Kaden. 'Excellent/ 'Where... were... you?' Percal asked, emphasising each word as though ready to e xplode on any of them. 'Keep your nose on/ Uriah said, smiling. Percal's face turned beet red; even Kaden looked shocked. 'I brought the implant/ Uriah said. He tossed the lung scrubber on the desk. Per cal jumped. 'Have you gone mad?' Percal roared. 'Not at all/ Uriah said. 'I just needed some time to sort through some matters. But as promised I delivered you the implant/

'I wanted all the implants/ Percal said. 'But all you and Kaden managed to acqui re were three out of six. Two of the supposedly finest Handlers of House Delaque and you allow the Orlocks to steal a way with three implants for study. Worse yet/ he said, pointing to Uriah, 'you only bring me one implant while Kade n procured the other two/ Kaden smiled and shrugged at the off-handed compliment. 'In truth/ Uriah said. 'I recovered three implants. One, Kaden appropriated. The second one was destroyed in a bike crash/ 'You lost one of the implants? I'm disappointed in you, Uriah/ Percal said. 'I t hought I was grooming a worthy successor/ 'Come now/ Uriah said. 'It's not all that bad and the truth is, you know that/ U riah tossed the file folder on the desk. What's that?' Kaden asked. Percal, however, didn't budge. Instead, he kept a wat chful eye on Uriah. 'A report of a massive explosion out of Stainstrip, an Orlock research facility. It occurred last week. I'm sure you know about the explosion?' 'And?' Kaden asked. "You wish to answer that, or shall I?' Uriah asked Percal. Percal said nothing. Instead, he leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers and waited for Uriah to speak. Very well/ Uriah said. 'Stainstrip is where Slag sent the implant he recovered t o be studied and tested.' 'Still not following you/ 'All right/ Uriah said. 'Let's take this back several steps. Soren was a Van Saa r tech selling secrets to us/ 'I'm not that lost/ Kaden said. 'Well, Soren was also greedy. He was selling the same secrets to the Orlocks/ 'I'd already figured that out seeing as how the Soul-splitters were always aroun d/ 'Soren was on his way to sell us the latest batch of implants when someone murde red him and scavenged his parts, selling them to the bio-surgeon Cantrall/ You haven't lost me yet/ 'Yes, well this part I bet you didn't know. The implants we recovered were of ol der technology. Hardly Van Saar's finest/ 'What? Somebody switched the tech on us?' 'Exactly The technology given to Cantrall was not the technology promised to us. They weren't Soren's implants. Just sold as such with enough of Soren's flesh to give us a genetic match/ 'Damn it!' Kaden said. "You mean we did this for nothing?' 'Depends on your definition of nothing/ Uriah said, smiling and maintaining his gaze on Percal. 'I don't get your meaning/ Kaden said. You know where the implants are?' Yes I do/ Uriah said. They're safe back at House Van Saar/ 'Come again?' The Van Saar orchestrated all this/ Uriah said. They discovered Soren's betrayal , so they hunted him down and killed him. Then they switched implants/ Then what's with the implants sold to Cantrall and all those gangers?' Kaden ask ed. The Van Saar idea of retribution. They wanted us scrambling to retrieve the impl ants. So they baited us by sending the implants to Cantrall and telling him they were top-of-the-line technology ta ken from Soren's body/ 'And we bought it/ Kaden said. 'But what's this got to do with the explosions at

Stainstrip. I mean why even go through the effort of all this?' The Van Saar booby-trapped the implants. Each implant contained an explosive mat was designed to detonate when someone tried tampering with its innards/ Kaden's eyes shot to the lung device on the desk. 'Like that thing? It's got a b omb inside it?' 'Had/ Uriah replied. 'It had an explosive. And the reason they never activated w hen they were being attached or removed is because they'll only activate when taken apart and examined/ Uriah allowed Kaden to absorb the information, though Percal was calm; this news had not been a surprise. Uriah thought back to Voice and how lucky she'd been to stumble across the explosive b efore it detonated. Someming had worried her about the device, so her first detailed examination used what she ca lled a microscopic fibre-opto to explore the heart accelerant's interior. That's when she found the bomb. 'Hey!' Kaden said, suddenly fitting two pieces together. 'Is that why Rot-Tongue couldn't sell his eye back to the Van Saar?' 'Correct/ Uriah said. The Van Saar weren't about to take back a booby-trapped it em. Not when they were desperate for the Orlocks or us to have them.' 'What about the implants you sent to the lab?' Kaden asked Percal. Uriah smiled. 'He already knew they were rigged with explosives.' 'I suspected,' Percal said. 'It's standard Van Saar procedure to booby-trap tech nology and leave it behind for the curious. I warned our techs of the danger and they discovered the explosives.' 'Then why didn't you tell us?' Kaden said, indignant. 'Because you weren't going to open the implants for examination. Not unless you knew how to speak with the Machine Spirit?' With that, he shot a look at Uriah. Kaden caught the glance and looked at Uriah as well. Uriah however, was enjoying this moment. 'Kaden/ Uriah said. 'Mind if I have a word with Percal alone?' 'Sure/ Kaden said, standing. 'Just don't forget you owe me/ 'I do at that/ Uriah said with a smile. He waited for Kaden to leave before sitt ing. 'I don't remember inviting you to sit. I still consider your role in this a fail ure/ 'I don't need permission to sit from you. Not anymore/ Uriah said. His smile van ished, replaced by a feral gaze that no longer kowtowed to Percal. 'Is that so?' Percal said. 'Be careful when crossing words with me, boy. I've be en at this game far longer than you/ 'Does it help?' Uriah asked. 'Does it ease your conscience to call it a game?' 'Leave/ Percal said. 'You've outstayed your welcome and my good graces/ 'No/ Uriah said. 'Not until you understand me perfectly/ 'Oh, I think I understand you already/ Percal said. His face was turning red. 'And I understand you/ Uriah replied; he felt calm. 'Oh really?' Percal said, laughing. 'Please. Enlighten me/ ??? betrayed Soren. You told the Van Saar about his dealings with us and with th e Orlocks/ 'If I did/ Percal said, 'should I not be the hero for revealing a double-agent w illing to court the Orlocks? If I did, that is/ 'Keep playing your game/ Uriah said. 'I want no part of it/ 'Are you so naive as to think you can resign?' Percal asked, a bemused look on h is face. 'Resign? No/ Uriah said. 'I'll still serve the House - as an independent with no

living alone/ 'You SAID THAT?' Derrik asked. I've already made the request/ Through whom?' Percal asked. 'Taking a chance. I know he warned the . 'I am curious. The necklace. 'Her name is Bettyna/ Uriah said. in shock. his eyes narrowing. on whose neck does this bel ong?' Uriah reached forward again. Another Elias/ Derrik shot Uriah an inquisitive look as he poured them both a drink from the bo ttle and shot cups in his desk drawer. 'A long time ago. Uriah reached for it. And like an idiot. Percal. 'You think that's what happened to Elias?' 'I know you do/ Uriah said. 'You are no longer welcome in my home. The only thing I want from you is the necklace Kaden stole from my hab/ ?\?? says I-' 'I said no more games. The smile on Percal's face evaporated. though/ he said. So much the easier to try me for treason and divert attention away fro m his action/ Derrik nodded. but the other examples were suitable enough. he was subtle enough to obfuscate the truth/ Uriah said. 'He knew I'd generate an affinity for the House. 'Percal sent me deep undercover into House Van Saar on repeated occasions/ Uriah said. 'I see/ he said. I did/ Uriah decided not to mention the Machine Spirit or Morgane. 'Leave/ Percal said. 'But he almost had me. if he doesn't already know. 'He was grooming me to be another sa crificial lamb. He was enjoy ing this moment in bed with her though they'd discussed much of the day's events in detail. he downed the shot of rat-bile and nodded his thanks to Derrik. URIAH PULLED MORGANE tighter into his embrace and smelled her hair.' Your home/ Uriah repeated as he stood and headed for the door. 'So if there was ever a need to question your lo yalties-' 'My own actions would condemn me/ Uriah said. It's mine and it's not something yo u want to start a war over. 'Not any more. You can't be an effective undercover agent without developing empathy for your targets. I used their equipment on occasion. 'I became familiar with their technology and I ev en befriended Soren/ Derrik nodded. aren't you?' she asked. 'I did at that/ Uriah said. I haven't told him that the Inform ation Cullers and Requisition-ers sponsored me with House Delaque as a freelance operative/ 'He'll find out soon enough. At least your life is n o longer bound on Percal's word/ 'True/ Uriah said. Trust me/ Percal considered the matter before removing the tear-shaped. He shoved the pendant and chain into Uria h's hands. 'Big word for a m an . With that.affiliation to your operation. 'But don't worry. but Percal's revealed far too many of his tricks over the years for me not to recognize his hand in matters. for its practices. black diamond pend ant necklace from somewhere inside his top drawer. He's crooked/ 'How so?' Morgane asked. 'I looked and acted like a Van Saa r. Uriah smiled. 'For old times sake. 'Perhaps. but Percal pulled it away. you know?' 'How so?' 'Aside from the obvious traps?' Uriah said. 'Consider it a farewell present/ Percal said.

'And I can't leave my position either/ 'I would never ask you to/ Uriah said. but he knew if I dug too deep. He was executed for betraying the House after Percal c aught him selling secrets. we'll continue as we've done/ To do that.Soulsplitters that I'd be going after Corval and Jaffa Hur.' 'Or possibly even kill me. 'Powerful friends.' Morgane said. T hey told me that they've never heard of half the inventions that Soren told me he brought to House Delaque.' 'Ah. . 'Only if you don't understand Percal/ Uriah said. 'Certain enough to voice my suspicions/ Uriah said. 'I know/ Uriah said. He was told to investigate Soren's disappearance by his superiors. but not yet not when my life is abo ut to come under heavy scrutiny. but he has more than enough cause to have me killed/ 'I'm not scared/ Morgane said. in case his identity was ever in danger. I might uncover his involvement. He set Kaden and the Orlocks after me to keep me preoccupied and to prevent me from uncovering the truth/ And the truth is?' 'He's working for your House/ Uriah said. And he knew Corval was the easiest to reach and kill to set up the ambush/ You think he's working with the Orlocks?' Morgane asked. 'but we can't for the while/ 'Why?' 'Because/ Uriah said. A hideaway for just you and me/ 'I know/ Uriah said. if I'm to keep one step ahead of whatever retribution Percal has in mind I need to be inside House Delaque keeping an eye on him. Percal was the traitor and he'd indoctrinated Elias as well . So Kaden and the Soulsplitters were to distract you. surprised. I just declared war against a very conniving and deadly foe. That's why your House knew about Soren. I thought.' 'So why betray you to the Orlocks again?' 'Because Percal had no choice. 'For now.' 'Sounds familiar/ Morgane said. He knew I'd investig ated them both previously.' 'You know Van Saar could use a man like you/ Morgane said.I suspect he convi nced Elias to take the fall for him when he could no longer hide. 'In no uncertain terms. kissing Morgane. We will find a place for ourselves. 'But that would put me back in Percal's court. perhap s he was trying to challenge me with greater obstacles. we need a new home. no. They'll help me. 'That's why he was grooming me to seem like the Van Saar spy. but that didn't ring true. I have allies now. though at first. 'I'm not the Handler he wanted . Besides. Protect me/ Morgane sighed and whispered. 'Are you certain?' Morgane asked. It's likelier that Percal trained Elias as the sacrificial lam b to the point of unquestioning loyalty. I don't have enough proof to lodge an official accusation. I wasn't Elias. I couldn't figure out why he did it. As soon as Percal realised Soren was also dealing with the Orlocks. 'I know. Per cal has been screening the technology we receive.' "Who's Elias?' 'Percal's former protege. 'No. 'Suspiciously so.' 'That seems extreme.' Uriah said. he decided to have him terminated/ 'But why allow Soren to continue betraying the Van Saar? Why encourage him?' 'I've been making new friends at Shadowstrohm.

A grim expression sat squarely on his face. but the entire Soren affair hadn't unfolded the way he'd intended. Percal had seen the slo w shift in Uriah's loyalties months ago.Nothing I find will be safe/ 'Then I'll find something. 'Did you receive my report?' Percal asked. however.' 'And the promise stands. F-2. But Uriah's growing independent streak was troubling.' the male voice said. Percal knew Uriah wasn't a House traitor. With a sigh. He reviewed the entire af fair from beginning to end. I knew Uriah was the traitor when I saw him pra ying to the Machine Spirit and possessing Van Saar technology. Everything he pos sessed sat in the reservoir of his thoughts. At the behest of his Van Saar handlers. Percal was using those events as his back-up plan t o indict Uriah in betraying the House. He was questioning more and pursuing matters without consulting his Oversee r. Anything Percal did again st him would heap suspicion back on himself. Had I not stopped him. Uriah had proven far more cunning than he'd anticipated. F-8. nothing to implicate him in matters. Uriah was safe for the time being. Now. I overestimated Slag's ability and underestimated Kaden's loyalties. Percal ignored his next move and instead pressed in sequence the tiles for D-3. where Percal was once able to keep an ey e on him. in the darkness of his office. in fact.' Percal said. his plan might have worked. The pieces flickered. Percal knew it was time to cut the strings tha t tied Uriah to House Delaque. C-6. 'But you aren't in danger yet. H-5. A moment later. a crackling voice emerged through hidden speakers. staring at the shadows.' the voice said. Uriah had managed to protect himself from blame. verbatim whenever he n eeded it. there was nothing written down. 'My position here is in danger. Percal stood and headed over to the regicide board. PERCAL SAT IN his chair. He was acquiring help and equipment outside the regular channels. Comprom . and he had exposed the Van Saar plot in the matter. 'We did. Instead. they'd failed. and send him on deep-cover assignments to where he'd start emulating Van Saar habits to survive. but it was a convenient lie he'd been trying to cultivate. 'You promised me a home should I n eed to leave this place. The Soulsplitters or Kaden should have eliminated Uriah and. one made more macabre by the hollow of his nose. had ample opportunity to do so. Keep him isolated from everyone at Shadowstrohm to increase people's dislike of him. Uriah Storm assassinated his friend Soren for betraying the Van Saar. 'And I know where to start/ he said. or the fact that the implants were fake s. he'd revealed the presence of explosives in the implants himself. and B-7. he was under the aegis of the other gangs in Shadowstrohm. which he'd done. to be called up with crystal clarity and often. and then knowingly brought booby-trapped implants into H ouse Delaque. How Uriah had discovered the explosives. Percal was ready to testify. You concentrate on your battles and on eliminating Pe rcal/ Uriah nodded. or that Percal had orchestrated Soren's death was a mystery. Percal thou ght.

Hey! No! Wait!' Voice stammered. 'What?' she asked. 'Given our last enterprise?' 'I know/ Uriah said. That's why I left-' 'The benefits are great/ Uriah said. but I'd likely say yes/ 'Excellent/ Uriah said slapping his knees. I'm always right. And I need to start planning. I could use the help.' 'I know/ Uriah said. And to tell you the truth. I did expect the scowl. equally valuable friends/ Voice shrugged. A slow. You scared me/ Voice said. and welcome to the shadowy world of House Delaque/ 'What7. wanted to say I understand now/ 'Understand what?' 'Fleshworks/ he replied. truthfully. despite the constant scowl she wor e. 'They have to be with all the backbiting/ . Anything else?' she asked with a smile. smiling.' 'And how did you imagine me?' she asked. 'But not just yet. With that. But you knew that already/ 'I did. 'Shh. He was looki ng forward to playing the game once more. and for the first time. VOICE AWOKE WITH a start and immediately groaned. 'Offer the terms. I can't draw upon any Delaque resources to do it. coming closer to her bed. It's just me/ Uriah said. I was betrayed and now a little more of me is artificial/ Uriah tapped his torso where two implants had replaced two shattered ribs. I need help from you. Percal realised he was actually giddy. More hair. I was hoping you'd come work for me on a permanent basis/ Voice laughed. I'm sure he's using it to communicate with someone insi de House Van Saar/ Very well/ Voice said. walking for the door. 'No. 'How are you feeling?' 'Feeling? I hurt when I blink . Voice realised Uriah was studying her. 'Oh. 'I like her too/ Voice chuckled. If they did. the voice cut out. you're not at all how I imagined. either. Taller. The skin staples were still ti ght and her broken leg itched. leaving Percal standing over the board. 'I need to eliminate Uriah. maybe. you'll love the experience/ Uriah said walking away. 'I'm less flesh then I was/ 'Told you.that Mother is a tyrant. we wouldn't be speaking. 'Uriah. Technology and men. I'd like to think. 'I never agreed-' 'Trust me. uncertain. Soren sold his scruples and died in the exchange.' Percal sighed. whatever you can s pare/ Any way House Van Saar can help.well. but black. I don't want any trails leading back to me. I don't like Houses. shh. what are you doing here?' 'I. 'But you're particularly gifted with machines. 'I'm sorry/ he said. It had been a long time since he'd entered the fray as a combatant. I've made some powerful enemies and. 'What say you?' Uriah asked. but I doubt they know enough to launch an investigation. un expected smile crept across his face. 'Nothing . It was good to see her smile. uh.' 'Yes/ the voice said. 'For the want of tech.ised. consider it done/ the voice said. though/ 'Did you now? Uriah. The timing must be right to remove you from suspicion. admonishing the Handler. We stil l need you there. 'First thing we need to do when you'r e up and about is break into a certain person's regicide board. 'Actually.

Actually. 'Can't back out now/ 'Uriah!' Voice shouted. 'Welcome to the Game. Has a thing for Escher women . leaving the room. women in general/ 'Jester/ Voice shouted after him. He can't wait to meet you. Jester!' 'You said yes/ Uriah said. Voice! It's about to get interesting/ . 'Get back here.'But I don't-' 'And you'll love Derrik.

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